Ski Jumper Yukio Kasaya – Japan’s First Ever Winter Gold

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As a 20-year old, he finished 23rd in the Normal Hill ski jump at the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Games. As a 24-year-old, he again finished 23rd in Grenoble. But as a 28-year old, and a veteran who had just won three events in a row in Europe prior to the Olympics, Yukio Kasaya was seen as the great Japanese hope at the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics

Yuki Kasaya life magazineThe native of Yoichi, Hokkaido, not far from Sapporo, Kasaya did not disappoint. His first jump blew the judges away. His second jump was not as prodigious, but he still finished first of the 61 jumpers. Kasaya’s total score gave Japan its first gold medal ever in the Winter Olympics, giving the host nation of Japan a reason to celebrate and breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Kasaya’s gold was in fact the only gold medal that Japan was to win. But because Kasaya was joined by two of his Japanese colleagues on the medal podium, Akitsugu Konno and Seiji Aochi, Japan erupted in celebration. As this article from Olympic.org states, “Japan had secured the first ski jumping clean sweep since 1948, and the three athletes were instantly promoted to the ranks of national heroes.”

According to Kasaya’s Wikipedia page, the site where Kasaya honed his ski jumping technique was a ski jumping facility called Taketsuru, named after the founder of Nikka Whisky Distilling, where Kasaya worked. After the 1972 Sapporo Olympics, the site was renamed Kasaya.