NEW YORK – Two-time Olympic gold medalist Tommy Kono died Sunday in Honolulu due to complications from liver disease, the U.S. Olympic Committee said. He was 85.
Kono won gold medals at the Olympics in Helsinki in 1952, and Melbourne in 1956, and captured six World Championship titles. He set 26 world, seven Olympic and eight Pan American Games records during his career through 1964.
Born in Sacramento, California, in 1930, Kono learned weightlifting when he and his family, who were of Japanese descent, were incarcerated at the Tule Lake internment camp during World War II.
“This is a sad day for all those that adored Tommy and learned from his giving heart throughout his amazing life. He was an Olympians’ Olympian,” the USA Weightlifting organization said in a statement.
Kono served as coach of the U.S. Olympic team in Montreal in 1976 after coaching the national and Olympic teams of Mexico and West Germany.
In 1993, Kono was inducted into the International Weightlifting Hall of Fame. He was also recognized as one of the One Hundred Golden Olympians at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
He authored two books on weightlifting — “Weightlifting, Olympic Style” and “Championship Weightlifting” — and a number of articles. He also reached the level of Category 1 as an international referee.
In addition to weightlifting, Kono also competed as a bodybuilder. He won the title of “Mr. World” in 1954 and “Mr. Universe” in 1955, 1957 and 1961.
Kono told Kyodo News in 2015 that he is against weightlifting training programs that prioritize high-volume training over mental preparation.
“Fifty percent of weightlifting is mental, 30 percent is technique, and only 20 percent is really power. So in other words, the more you train doesn’t necessarily mean you get better and better,” he said.