Flying Dutchmen 1964_Olympic_Report2_800_rdax_60

They came in 18th overall in the Flying Dutchman (FD) competition, but they came in first in the hearts of the Japanese.

Stig Lennart Käll and his younger brother Lars Gunnar Käll were sailing in the third race of seven in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics FD-class competition when they saw another boat ahead of them capsize, and of the two crew members floating in the middle of the Sagami Bay. Making a fairly quick decision, the Käll brothers steered their way towards the sailor in the water and plucked Australian Ian Charles Winter out of the water. Then they proceeded to the capsized Australian boat, Diablo, to rescue the second member of that crew, John Gregory Dawe, pulling him into the Swedish boat, Hayama.

Swedish yacht saves Austrlian yacht

According to the Japan Times on October 21, 1964, the exploits of the Swedish FD crew were publicized nationally in the Japanese press, sparking a barrage of gifts to be sent by grateful well-wishers to the sailing Olympic Village in Oiso, not far from the Enoshima Harbor where the sailing competition was taking place.

Their behavior also led to the creation of the Fair Play Prize. The first winners of this prize – the Käll brothers.

The Swedes still placed 12th out of 20 in that particular race. Seven others, including the Australian boat, did not finish the race. Of the six other races in the competition, this had by far the highest number of boats that could not finish. And yet, the Swedish brothers not only finished, they beat out one other boat – this despite taking time to rescue the Australians, and taking on considerable extra weight with the two new crewmen.

Stig Kall
Stig Lennart Käll
Iolanda Balas in Tokyo_Tokyo Olympiad 1964_Kyodo News Service
From the book, XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964 Asahi Shinbum

One of the most dominant female athletes in history passed away this week. Iolanda Balaș was not only the first Romanian woman to win an Olympic gold medal, she was the sole world record holder of the high jump for over thirteen years, setting a new record 12 times in that span from June 1958 to July 1961.

Balaș won her first gold medal during that period at the Rome Olympics in 1960. She had not missed a jump in the entire competition, and so had extra jumps. After winning the competition at 1.73 meters, she went after the Olympic record. Leaping 1.77, 1.81 and 1.85 meters, she broke the Olympic record three times before calling it quits.

At Tokyo in 1964, Balaș did it again, not missing a jump, and winning the gold medal at the height of 1.82 meters. Again, with bullets to spare, she took a shot at the Olympic record and broke it twice, first at 1.86 meters, and then finally at 1.90. She reached this incredible height, apparently, despite a torn tendon.

Balaș was 79.

Watch her emerge victorious in Rome in this video.

memorial to 1980 US Boxing team to Poland'
Memorial to the US Boxing team who perished in Warsaw, Poland on March 14, 1980

 

On this day, March 14, 36 years ago, LOT Airlines 7 took off in New York City and crashed on the runway at a Warsaw, Poland domestic airport. Eighty-seven people, all passengers and crew, including 22 members of the US boxing team, died.

Possibility of a US boycott of the Moscow Olympics was in the air, but at that time members of this team were still hoping to make the Olympic team. One passenger, Lemuel Steeples of St Louis, was considered a strong medal contender for the 1980 Summer Games. On the whole though, many of these boxers were still in a developmental stage, these international competitions an opportunity to get them experience.

As then chairman of the AAU national boxing committee, Bob Surkein said in this New York Times article, “These were youngsters who never had a thing in life. All we can offer them is an international trip. They get the trip and something like this happens. They were just babies. I don’t know how we’re going to come out of it.”

As all plane crash stories inevitably have, there are people who for whatever reason were supposed to be on a doomed flight, but weren’t. One week before the LOT 7 plane crash, boxer Bobby Czyz was injured in a car accident, and thus did not go with the team to Poland.

Czyz (pronounced “chez”), who is of Polish ancestry and was born in Orange, New Jersey, went on to be a world light heavyweight and cruiserweight champion. After losing to heavyweight champion, Evander Holyfield, Czyz retired and became a successful television boxing analyst.

Czyz vs Holyfield
October 5, 1996 fight between Czyz and Holyfield

 

A few years ago, Czyz was interviewed by Boxing News 24 where he provided a very emotional reply to a question about how he felt when he heard about the LOT 7 crash.

“When I found out the plane crashed I’ll tell you exactly what I felt and what I thought. My father was a very brutal man. He was a tough disciplinarian. He called the house from his office and he said ‘Bob, remember that trip to Poland?’ I thought he was gonna rip into me because I’d gotten in a car accident. He said ‘Listen, they’re all dead. The plane crashed at 100% fatality’. When I say to you, a chill ran up my spine, I can’t even tell you, the feeling was so strange, I was physically shaking.”

Bobby then brings the factors of fate and religion into the situation. “It’s unimaginable that you were slated to be dead and that is an uncomfortable feeling, I was supposed to be dead. It’s never left me, certainly the severity of the moment has never changed but as time goes by, you don’t think about it as much. Whoever took my place is gone and I was literally slated to die.”

He continued “I’m not a religious person, my mom is very old school Catholic and when the plane crashed, she said to me, and I quote ‘Son, don’t you believe in God now? He let you get in a car accident and he saved your life.’ You mean he killed all of those people to make a point to me? That’s just bad Math. To this day, she still believes that’s what happened.”

memorial to 1980 US Boxing team to Poland 2Four years later, a statue dedicated to the US Boxing Team that perished in Warsaw was placed on the training grounds of the US Olympic team in Colorado Springs, Colorado. On that memorials are inscribed all the members of the team who died that day:

Kelvin D. Anderson, Elliott Chavis, Gary Tyrone Clayton, Walter Harris, Byron Lindsay, Andrea McCoy, Paul Palomino, Byron Payton, George Pimental, Chuck Robinson, David Rodriguez, Lemuel Steeples, Jerome Stewart, Lonnie Young, Joseph F. Bland, Colonel Bernard Callahan, John Radison, Junior Robles, Dr. Ray Wesson, Delores Wesson, and the coach Thomas “Sarge” Johnson

Ikuko Yoda_Tokyo Olympics Special Issue_Kokusai Johosha 1
Ikuko Yoda, from the magazine Tokyo Olympics Special Issue_Kokusai Johosha
Ikuko Yoda (依田郁子) did not make the team to go to the Rome Olympic Games in 1960. So she went to Lake Sagami near Mt Fuji, took a large amount of sleeping pills, and attempted to end her life. However, she did not succeed.

Running the hurdles had become her life, and competing and winning in the Olympics was perhaps a way to make her complete. Recovering from the pain of Rome, she may have seen redemption in Tokyo, and recovered enough from her suicide attempt to begin training again. Over that 4-year period, Yoda set and re-set the Japan record for the 80-meter hurdles 12 times, becoming a powerful track and field hope for Japan at the Tokyo Olympics.

During the Tokyo Games, photographers tracked her every move. The famed director, Kon Ichikawa, had his movie cameras focused on Yoda more than other competitors for the film, Tokyo Olympiad. And Yoda ran excellently, easily making the cut in the first round of heats, running a personal best 10.7 seconds. In the semis, she again ran the course in 10.7 seconds and made it to the final 8.

In one of the closest finals in any Olympic foot race ever, Karin Balzer of Germany and Teresa Cieply of Poland finished the 8-meter race in 10.5 seconds, although Balzer was declared the winner. Pam Kilborn of Australia finished third with a time of 10.6 seconds. With a time of 10.7 seconds, Yoda finished fifth.

No doubt, this was a fantastic time and finish. In fact, she’s still the only Japanese female to enter the finals of any individual short-distance race in the history of international competition.

But she could not outrun her demons.

Ikuko Yoda_Asahi Graf_Oct 23
Ikuko Yoda, from the magazine Asahi Graf_Oct 23
After the 1964 Olympics, Yoda married. She had children. And as she entered her forties, she began to suffer from health issues. In 1983 she entered the hospital for knee and heart issues. And on October 14 of that year, nearly 19 years to the day when she fought but came in fifth in the 80-meter hurdles at the Tokyo Games, she hung herself in her own home.

She left no note. But she suffered from depression, and apparently had problems reconciling her images of perfection in whatever she was doing, and the reality around her. Here is how Robin Kietlinski, the author of Japanese Women and Sport explained it.

In spite of the paper-thin difference separating Yoda’s finishing time from those of the three medal winners, she had an incredibly difficult time handling the fact that she had trained so hard and did not come away with a medal. She was frequently described as a perfectionist (kanzenshugisha, kanpekishugisha) who could not bear when things did not go exactly as she planned. At a press conference immediately following the conclusion of the Tokyo Olympics, Yoda caused quite a stir when she reported that ‘I do not want to go through the pain of racing a second time. I will be retiring now. I do not even want to look at a track again.’ Shortly thereafter, she married a professor at the Tokyo University of Education (now Tsukuba University) and fully devoted herself to being a good housewife and later a caring mother to her children. According to her husband, she was as much a perfectionist when it came to running the household as she had been during her running career.

Mayweather on his Victory Tour
Floyd Mayweather, Jr on tour with his million dollar watch

On May 2, 2015, Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao fought in a much-anticipated welterweight boxing championship. Mayweather won “The Fight of the Century” in a unanimous decision, which was also the highest grossing pay-per-view fight in history.

Despite the popular view that the match was mediocre in quality, and a letdown from the hype, Mayweather reinforced his reputation as the best “pound-for-pound” boxer in the sport, perhaps in the history of boxing. After all, Mayweather is now 47-0 in his professional boxing career. The last time he did not win a match was at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, when he lost on points to Bulgarian, Serafim Todorov, in a controversial decision that was heavily protested by the US team. He won the bronze in the featherweight class, but ever since, Mayweather has been golden.

Floyd Mayweather and tiger
Floyd Mayweather, Jr with his pet tiger

After the Pacquiao victory, someone must have put it in his head that more glory and riches were waiting for him on the road, not as a boxer, but as a person’s whose presence people felt compelled to be in. Thus was born the “2016 European Victory Tour”. At these events scheduled throughout England in February, Mayweather charged £70 (USD100) for a picture with the champ, and £600 (USD830) for dinner and a chance to listen to a Q&A session with Mayweather. At this talk, you would have heard how he arrived in his own £40 million jet (USD55 million), or seen the USD1 million watch he bought in Dubai.

You can splurge like that, I suppose, if you’ve earned over three quarters of a billions dollars in an undefeated professional boxing career.

The question is, did he really need to go on tour and charge people a hundred bucks for a selfie?

Here are a couple of interesting articles on the Mayweather tour:

Alejandro Chaskielberg photo 1
The members of a family sit in the place where their house stood before being destroyed by the tsunami of March 11, 2011, Otsuchi town, Iwate Prefecture, Japan_photo art created by Alejandro Chaskielberg

I was living in Seattle. I was called out of an important meeting because my wife called, moaning into the phone about intense pain in her stomach. I told her I’d rush home, but it was 5pm and Seattle rush-hour traffic was like everywhere else: not so good.

It took forever to get home, and when I did, she wasn’t there. As it turned out, she called 911, got carted off in an ambulance, and was transported to a hospital. I saw the note and took off for the hospital. A few hours hooked up to an IV later, she was told that the food poisoning was no longer an issue, so we hopped in a taxi.

We got home at 10 pm, May 10, 2011. In Japan, it was 3pm, May 11, approximately 14 minutes after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck just off the coast of northeastern Japan. We turned on the TV and watched the horror unfold on CNN, doing all we could to contact friends and family in Tokyo, where the effects of the earthquake were also significant.

So much has been written about the events and aftermath of 3.11’s triple disaster: the earthquake, the tsunami and the nuclear meltdown at Daichi Nuclear Power Station.

One thing I learned a couple of years ago shocked me. It hit me on the treadmill one morning, while reading on my Kindle the book, “Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival“, by Financial Times editor, David Pilling. Chapter 14, “Fukushima Fallout”, began with these words:

Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station and Odaka
The sort distance from my ancestral home town and the Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station.

It looked like any other provincial Japanese town. There was the Shiga Hair Salon, with its red, white and blue barber’s pole, offering cuts and ‘iron perms’. Next door was the Watanabe Cake Shop, doing business since 1990 and housed in a two-storey mock Tudor building. Outside the nearby Jokokuji temple, a tiny granite stone Buddha figurine stood at the entrance, dressed in a weather-worn pink ceremonial shawl. The traffic lights clicked on and off, from red to orange to green and back again. Korean pop music erupted from unseen speakers, breaking what had been a fetid silence. The only thing missing in the town of Odaka, located less than ten miles north of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, was people.

The Shiga Hair Salon! That was the home of my grandfather’s younger sister, a very short drive to the birthplace of my grandfather! In August, 1988, in search of my roots, I was informed by the Odaka city office that I had relatives at the Shiga Hair Salon. So I walked on over, rehearsed an opening line in Japanese in my head, and walked in. After fumbling through an explanation in poor Japanese, showing them the documents that traced my past to this neighborhood over 150 years earlier, and that the hair salon’s founder, Chozo Shiga, was married to my grandfather’s sister….well we were suddenly family! I was ushered into their home, shown pictures, fed sushi and told stories. Later that day, they took me to the original home of my grandfather and ancestors, where the owner still cared for the tombstones of my ancestors.

Needless to say that time in 1988, and that moment when I learned my ancestral hometown was a ghost town, were both emotional jolts. Still today, I do not know what has happened to my relatives in the Shiga Hair Salon, although I’m pretty sure that the ancestral burial ground has been swept away as it was fairly close to the coast.

But my pain pales in comparison to those who truly suffered five years ago today.

When the demolition of the National Olympic Stadium began last year, and they needed a place to put the Olympic Cauldron, it was decided that the cauldron should be displayed in Tohoku. So on June 27 of 2015, the cauldron was unveiled in Ishinomaki, Miyagi, an area hard-hit by the effects of the tsunami. Athens Olympian and gold medalist in the hammer throw, Koji Murofushi, lit the cauldron, shining a light on Tohoku.

Koji Murofushi
Koji Murofushi lights the Olympic cauldron on June 27 at a park in Ishinomaki, Miyagi

The Olympic cauldron is expected to stay in Tohoku until 2020, when it would be returned to Tokyo to resume it’s spot in the new National Olympic Stadium.

Like the Olympic flame, which represents eternal peace and hope, the 2020 Olympics represent an opportunity to show that Japan is back, and the hopes and dreams of Tohoku are alive and well.

Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes
Rio mayor Eduardo Paes

Of the cities with the highest murder rates in the world, 41 of the top 50 are in Mexico and Latin America. Of those 41, 21 of them are in Brazil. It is both a stunning and unfortunate fact, particularly as Brazil is doing its best to get ready for the biggest sports show in the world – The Summer Olympics.

So by extension, there are concerns regarding crime in Rio de Janeiro.

Top 50 Most Violent Cities by Country_Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

A couple of weeks ago, Australian chef de mission, Kitty Chiller, announced that members of the Australian Olympic squad would not be allowed to visit the favelas “because we could not control visits involving a large number of athletes going to different places at different times.”

While the favelas in Rio, which are communities where the lowest income families often live, are a not-so-uncommon tourist destination, they are also apparently centers for crime: drugs, robberies, murder.

The mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes, is doing all he can to fight off this negative perception. “There is a lot of ignorance about Rio and Brazil, a certain drama of how things are,” he said in response to Chiller’s announcement.

The world will come to Rio in August. Brazilians will welcome them with open arms. The first Olympic Games held in South America will be a tremendous event. And then life (and death) will likely go on…

See a previous post called “Life in the Favela: At War with the Pacifying Police