To play us out this week, here are five mini-tributes to Japanese athletes who have left us recently:
- Kiyoko Ono, a member of Japan’s bronze-winning women’s team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and a former Diet member, died March 13 from COVID-19. She was 85. Ono was the first woman to head the National Public Safety Commission and to become vice president of the Japanese Olympic Committee. The team bronze she won remains Japan’s only Olympic women’s gymnastics medal.
- Kickboxing star Tadashi Sawamura, who dominated the martial art in the 1960s and 1970s and was immortalized in the TV anime “The King of Kickboxing,” died of illness on March 26. He was 78. If you are not familiar with Sawamura’s signature jumping knee kick, check it out below!
- Toshihiko Koga, a judo gold medalist at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, died March 24 at home in Kawasaki. He was 53. The three-time Olympian was hospitalized last year due to cancer and had surgery. Koga was scheduled to take part in the Olympic torch relay in May in his native prefecture of Saga.
- Yoshitsugu Naka, an archer who qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, died aged 60, it was announced Feb. 9. Naka had been undergoing medical treatment since November. Diagnosed with triple A syndrome, a rare autosomal recessive disorder, at age 31, Naka taught himself to shoot a bow from a wheelchair.
- Atsushi Miyagi, who won the 1955 U.S. Open doubles championship, died of bladder cancer on FEb. 24 at an assisted living facility in Tokyo. He was 89. The 1955 title, with compatriot Kosei Kamo, remains the only Grand Slam tournament championship won by Japanese men since World War II.