Sawao Katō

The Japanese contingent stamped their mark in the sport of gymnastics in the 1960’s and 1970’s thanks to its premium athlete, Sawao Kato. The versatile and prolific gymnast took home 12 Olympic medals (8 of them gold) from 1968 to 1976. He also won one gold medal in the team event at the World Championships.

Kato best exemplifies three attributes: discipline, perseverance and precision.  The 1968 Olympic Games that was held in Mexico City served as his baptism of fire when he clinched the gold medals in the individual combined exercises, floor exercises and team events and a bronze medal in the rings event.

Riding on the momentum it had built in the previous Olympics, Kato made his presence felt once again at the 1972 edition of the Games which was staged in Munich. He seized the gold medal in the parallel bars and a couple of silver medals in the pommel horse and horizontal bars events.

Katō continued his gold medal winning in the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics as he powered his Japanese team to its fifth straight gold medal and captured the gold medal in the parallel bars. He also netted a silver medal in the individual combined exercises event.

He later become a coach and helped steer his student Tanaka Hikaruto victory in the 1994 Japanese national championship. In 2001, Katō was enshrined into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

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