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Tommy Kono: Asian Menswear Spotlight Series

This Asian Menswear highlight is about the greatest weightlifter of all time, Tommy Kono.


Tommy Kono was a Japanese-American Olympic weightlifter during the 1950s and 1960s. He was born on June 27, 1930, in Sacramento, CA. Kono won multiple awards in the Olympic and world championships in four different weight classes and is considered the greatest weightlifter of all time. ⁣

⁣⁣Kono and his family, because of their Japanese heritage, were sent to internment camps at Tule Lake, California during WW2. As a child, Kono suffered from severe asthma. It was there at the internment camp, in the high desert air, where Kono’s asthma dissipated. Kono was first introduced to weightlifting during his stay at Tule Lake, and by 1952 he became a mainstay of the US national team. His team found Kono to be valuable because of his clutch performances, and his ability to adjust his body weight without losing much of his strength. ⁣⁣

⁣⁣In his entire weightlifting career, he won two gold medals in the Olympics (1952 and 1956), for lightweight and light-heavyweight division consecutively. He also won a silver medal as a middleweight at the Rome Olympics in 1960. Kono also won four national titles for middleweights and an additional six national titles as a light heavyweight from 1953-1963. Kono also earned a total of three Pan American Titles, with the first one as a middleweight, and the other two as a light-heavyweight. He claimed six world titles as a middleweight (1953, 1957-1959), and as a light-heavyweight (1954-1955). ⁣⁣
⁣Along with his streak of wins, Kono was able to set 37 American, 8 Pan American, 7 Olympic and 26 world records. This made Kono the only weightlifter to set world records in four different weight divisions and the most accomplished US male weightlifter to date.⁣⁣

⁣Although Kono was mostly known for his weightlifting awards, he also won the titles: Mr. World in 1954, and Mr. Universe in 1955, 1957, and in 1961. ⁣⁣

⁣⁣In 1964, Kono retired from weightlifting following a knee injury, which prevented him from participating in the Olympics. Kono turned to coaching soon after. He coached the 1968 Mexican Summer Olympic team, the 1972 West German Summer Olympic team, and the 1976 U.S. Summer Olympic team.⁣⁣

⁣He was named as the “Lifter of the Century” in 2005 by the International Weightlifting Federation.