Where EAST meets the Northwest
LIFTER OF THE CENTURY. In this May 17, 1958 file photo, Tommy Kono of the
United States competes in a weightlifting match between the U.S. team and a
visiting Russian team in New York. Kono, who took up weightlifting in an
internment camp for Japanese Americans and went on to win two Olympic gold
medals for the United States, has died. The U.S. Olympic Committee announced
that Kono died in Honolulu at age 85. His daughter, JoAnn Sumida, told The
New York Times the cause was complications from liver disease. (AP
Photo/Marty Lederhandler, File)
From The Asian Reporter, V26, #10 (May 16, 2016), page 7.
Olympic weightlifting champion Tommy Kono dies in Hawai‘i
HONOLULU (AP) — Tommy Kono, who took up weightlifting in an internment camp
for Japanese Americans and went on to win two Olympic gold medals for the United
States, has died. He was 85 years old.
Kono died in Honolulu, the U.S. Olympic Committee announced. His daughter,
JoAnn Sumida, told The New York Times the cause was hepatic
encephalopathy caused by cirrhosis of the liver.
He was born Tamio Kono in Sacramento, California in 1930. Kono was a frail,
asthmatic 14-year-old when a neighbor first gave him a dumbbell at the Tule Lake
internment center in Northern California, where he lived with his family for
most of World War II.
He packed on 15 pounds of muscle by the time he left the camp in 1945.
"I didn’t want to be a weightlifter," Kono said in 1960, according to the
Times. "I just want to be healthy."
Before his weightlifting career, Kono went to high school and college in
Sacramento and was drafted into the army.
Kono would become one of the sport’s greatest champions, winning golds in
Helsinki in 1952 and Melbourne in 1956. He also won a silver medal at the 1960
games in Rome and six straight world championships in the 1950s. At various
times he held 20 world records, according to the International Weightlifting
Federation. That organization named him "Lifter of the Century" on its 100th
anniversary in 2005.
In the same period, he competed as a bodybuilder, winning the title Mr.
Universe three times.
Kono said Arnold Schwarzenegger once cited him as an inspiration.
"He told me he was a 13-year-old boy in the audience that day and was so
inspired he ran home and started working out," Kono told the Sacramento Bee
Kono later became a coach of Olympic weightlifting teams for three different
countries, including the U.S. team that competed in Montreal in 1976.
Read the current issue of The Asian Reporter in its entirety!
Go to <www.asianreporter.com/completepaper.htm>!