Not All Olympic Champions Receive a Medal

Team medals
The actual team medals awarded to the Japanese men’s and women’s gymnastics team for their first (left) and third (right) place finishes at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Only one medal was awarded to a gymnastics team that finished first to third.

Gymnast Shuji Tsurumi emerged as one of the most decorated Olympians of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, winning a gold medal for Japan in the team competition, and three silver medals in the individual all around, the pommel horse and the parallel bars.

And yet, the two-time Olympian has in his possession only the three silver medals from 1964.

Gymnast Toshiko Shirasu-Aihara held it in her hand – the bronze medal awarded to Japan for the Japanese women’s team’s third place finish at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

But she has no medal at home.

While individuals of winning volleyball, basketball, water polo teams for example took home their own medals, individuals of teams that finished first, second or third in the Team category for artistic gymnastics were awarded only a “diploma,” an official document recognizing the individual’s participation in the team’s medal award.

There is actually a single medal awarded to the gymnastics team in this case, awarded to the nation. At the 100th Birthday Anniversary of gymnast great, Masao Takemoto, on September 29, 2019, the medals of the gold-medal winning men’s gymnastics team, and the bronze-medal winning women’s gymnastics team were on display.

Gingko Abukawa Chiba and Toshiko Shirasu Aihara of the bronze-medal women’s gymnastics team of 1964, with Shuji Tsurumi of the gold-medal winning gymnastics teams of 1960 and 1964.

Shirasu-Aihara, who had won the inaugural NHK Cup Championship in women’s gymnastics in 1962, saw the team bronze medal for the Japan women’s Tokyo Olympic achievements for the first time at the Takemoto anniversary event, nearly 55 years after helping her team win it. She told me it would be wonderful if somehow the IOC could reconsider their decision and provide a medal to members of her team and the Japan men’s gymnastics team that won gold.

A few weeks later, I contacted David Wallechinsky, Olympic historian and president of the International Society of Olympic Historians. He graciously agreed to send a note to the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). A few weeks later, he got a clear and logical response from the IOC.

While we very much appreciate your thought for each team member of the 1964 Japanese gymnastics team events to be handed an Olympic medal retroactively and the symbolic gesture that such an initiative would send, we have to respect that the rules of the sport in force at the time for the team competition were: “To the team classed first: Olympic medal in silver-gilt for the nation: diploma for each team member and leader”. See Olympic Charter 1962, Rule 41 Prizes.

We also have to stay sensitive to the fact that similar rules of “one medal for the whole team and only diplomas for the team members” is not unique to the Tokyo 1964 Games, but also were applied to other sports and Games editions.

According to the Olympic Charter of 1962, in cases where individuals compete as a team with the purpose of winning a team competition, then the individuals whose teams place first, second or third receive their own medal. Thus individuals on teams that medaled in volleyball or basketball received medals.

But victory for the team category in artistic gymnastics was determined by the total scores of performances in the individual competitions, in which medals were also awarded.

Olympic Rings
The silver Olympic Rings awarded to Shuji Tsurumi in recognition of his team’s gold medal achievements at both the 1960 and 1964 Olympics, when medals were not distributed to individuals who earned medals in team gymnastics.

Here is how the Olympic Charter of 1962 described Rule 41, which dictated which individuals and teams are awarded medals:

In team events, except those of an ” artificial ” nature (one in which the score is computed from the position of the contestant in the individual competition) each member of the winning team participating in the final match shall be given a silver-gilt medal and a diploma, of the second team a silver medal and a diploma and of the third team a bronze medal and a diploma. Those team members who have not participated in the final matches are given diplomas but no medals. In “artificial ” team events one medal only shall be given to the team and the members shall receive diplomas only. Members of teams placed fourth, fifth and sixth receive diplomas only.

Gymnast Toshiko Shirasu-Aihara
Gymnast Toshiko Shirasu-Aihara, wearing in 2019 for the first time ever the team bronze medal awarded to Japan’s women’s gymnastics team took third place in 1964.

In today’s world, time for a separate team competition is carved out for gymnastics, so individuals can receive team medals.

A decade later, the IOC did indeed issue a special recognition to the individuals of such “artificial teams” – Olympic rings made of silver.



Team medals
1964年の東京オリンピックで1位(左)と3位(右)に輝いた日本体操男子団体と女子団体のチームに実際に授与されたメダル。 体操団体戦の1位から3位のチームには、メダルが1つしか授与されなかった。






この場合、体操チームに授与された唯一のメダルは、実際には国が受け取ることとなる。偉大な体操選手であった竹本正男選手の生誕100周年にあたる 2019年9月29日には、当時の体操男子団体チームの金メダルと女子団体チームの銅メダルが展示された。

• 1964年の東京オリンピック体操女子団体戦で銅メダルを獲得した千葉吟子(旧姓虻川)選手と相原俊子(旧姓白須)選手、そして1960年と1964年のオリンピック体操男子団体戦で金メダルを獲得した鶴見修治選手

1962年の第一回NHK杯体操選手権の体操女子で優勝した相原(旧姓白須)選手は、この竹本選手の記念イベントで、64年の東京オリンピックで日本体操女子チームに貢献して以来、ほぼ55年ぶりに初めてその銅メダルと対面したのである。 相原選手は、IOCが何らかの形で彼らの決定事項を再考し、当時銅メダルを獲得した日本体操女子団体チームと、金メダルを獲得した日本体操男子団体チームの選手たちにメダルを授与してくれたら素晴らしいだろう、と私に語った。

その数週間後、オリンピックの歴史家であり国際オリンピック歴史家協会の会長であるデビッド・ウォレチンスキー氏にこのことを私が伝えると、彼は、国際オリンピック委員会(IOC)の会長にメモを送ることを快諾してくれた。 数週間の後、彼の元にIOCから明確かつ論理的な回答が送られてきた。その内容は以下の通りである。

1964年の東京オリンピックに参加した日本の体操団体戦の各選手に対し、オリンピックメダルを遡って授与するという貴殿のお考えと、そのような取り組みが発信するであろう象徴的な意思表示を、私たちは高く評価しております。その一方で、私たちは、団体競技が行われた時点で有効であった競技規定を尊重する必要があります。当時の規定では、「1位となったチームに対しては、銀台金箔(またはメッキ)のオリンピックメダルをその国に授与し、チームの各選手およびチームを代表する選手には、賞状を贈呈する」と、定められています。 1962年オリンピック憲章、規則41表彰についての項目を参照してください。



Olympic Rings



団体戦では、「人為的」な性質(得点が個人戦の成績に基づいて計算されるということ)を除き、決勝戦に出場して優勝したチームの各選手には、銀台金箔(またはメッキ)のメダルおよび賞状、2位のチームの各選手には銀メダルおよび賞状、3位のチームの各選手には銅メダルおよび賞状が、それぞれ授与されるものとする。それらのチームにおいて 決勝戦に出場しなかった選手に対しては、賞状が授与され、メダルは授与されないものとする。「人為的な」団体戦では、チームに対しメダルが1つだけ授与され、そのチームの選手には、賞状のみ授与されるものとする。 4位、5位、6位に入賞したチームの選手には、賞状のみ授与されるものとする。

Gymnast Toshiko Shirasu-Aihara