Yoshida and Icho
2012 Vogue Japan Woman of the Year: Saori Yoshida and Kaori Icho

There are only two people, both male, who have won individual gold medals in a single event four Olympic Games in a row: Al Oerter in the discus throw from 1956~1968, and Carl Lewis in the long jump from 1984~1996.

At the Rio Olympics in August, we may bear witness to a historical achievement by a Japanese wrestler, not once, but twice.

Both Saori Yoshida (吉田 沙保里,) and Kaori Icho(伊調馨) have won consecutive gold medals in wrestling at the Olympic Summer Games in Athens (2004), Beijing (2008) and London (2012). And they won their respective weight classes at the Japan national championships in June last year to get their tickets punched to Rio. In fact, they both won their 13th straight national championship.

Yoshida of Mie Prefecture and Icho of Aomori are quite simply the two most dominant wrestlers on the planet. They are both referred to as the “legends of the unbeaten streak” (不敗神話). Ito has won 172 straight times since May, 2003, and Yoshida has lost only twice in her career, most recently in May, 2012. But they are both perfect at Olympiads.

 

There was a brief time when both Yoshida and Icho competed in the same weight class, but fortunately, Icho moved up to the next heavier weight class, setting up this year, a historic opportunity.

For some reason, Yoshida has become more the face of Japanese wrestling, as the front person for the Japanese security company, Alsok. But they are both supported by Alsok, as you can see in the commercial below.

But come August, we will be hearing a lot about both of these two wrestling legends.

Advertisements

Bruce and Caitlyn_cover to cover

NINE – Meet Caitlyn Jenner: Jenner reveals in July that she would no longer be known as Bruce Jenner, sparking a dialogue about what it means to be transgender. The 1976 gold medal-winning pentathlon men’s champion’s cover story on Vanity Fair, and follow-up television interviews helped broaden the world view on people who identify themselves as transgender.

Day Thirteen: The Championships - Wimbledon 2015
LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 12: Serena Williams of the United States and Novak Djokovic of Serbia dance on stage at the Champions Dinner at the Guild Hall on day thirteen of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships on July 12, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Thomas Lovelock – AELTC Pool/Getty Images)

EIGHT – Olympians Serena Williams and Novak Djokavic Win 3/4 of their Grand Slams: Williams won the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon in 2015. She is a four-time gold medalist, winning gold in doubles in 2000, 2008 and 2012, as well as the singles championship in 2012. Djokavic won the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon in 2015. Djokavic now has a total 10 Grand Slams, and took the bronze medal in singles play in Beijing in 2008.

fc barcelona uefa.jpg

SEVEN – Barcelona FC Wins the Treble: In the 2014–2015 season, Barcelona win La Liga, Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League titles, becoming the first European team to have won the treble twice. Olympians on Barcelona FC include Javier Mascherano (gold for Argentina in 2004 and 2008), Lionel Messi (gold for Argentina in 2008), Neymar (silver for Brazil in 2012), Luis Suarez (competed for Uruguay in 2012)

See this link for 13 through 15, and 10 through 12.

The baseball cards of Shaun Fitzmaurice and Chuck Dobson, who played in the Olympic baseball exhibition at the Tokyo Games in 1964.
The baseball cards of Shaun Fitzmaurice and Chuck Dobson, who played in the Olympic baseball exhibition at the Tokyo Games in 1964.

Baseball has a long history in Japan, from the time in 1934 when Babe Ruth played in an exhibition series in Japan, to when Hideo Nomo and Ichiro Suzuki exploded on the scene in Major League Baseball, to the recent years of Japan’s success in the World Baseball Classic Series.

But baseball is not an Olympic sport. And it wasn’t in 1964 either.

While baseball was not an official event at the Tokyo Olympics, it was in fact a demonstration sport. On October 11, 1964, a team of 21 American college ball players played a team of Japanese amateur all stars. And the American team went on to win 6 to 2 in front of 50,000 fans at Meiji Stadium.

The baseball cards of Gary Sutherland and Ken Suarez, who played in the Olympic baseball exhibition at the Tokyo Games in 1964.
The baseball cards of Gary Sutherland and Ken Suarez, who played in the Olympic baseball exhibition at the Tokyo Games in 1964.

That was the first of a series of exhibition games that the Americans would have with Japanese teams across the country, in cities like Numazu, Hamamatsu, Nagoya and Osaka. Japanese fans got to see future major leaguers like Chuck Dobson (Athletics), Gary Sutherland (a utility man who played for 7 major league teams), and Shaun Fitzmaurice (Mets), who hit the first pitch of the first exhibition game for a home run.

But the reality is, baseball was not an official event, and was thus given little attention by the press, which may have suited some of the players fine. As told in this interesting history, “Baseball in the Olympics“, by Peter Cava, the American players were not Olympians, and so did not live in the Olympic Village, or live by strict curfews.

The contingent wasn’t considered part of the official U.S. Olympic team. Instead of quarters in the Olympic village, the baseball players found themselves staying in an antiquated YMCA. Eventually the team moved to more suitable lodgings in a Tokyo hotel. They soon became the envy of the other American athletes. Unlike their brethren in the Olympic village, the baseball players weren’t subject to curfew. One team member recalls attending a party with sprinter Bob Hayes and Walt Hazzard of the basketball team. When Hayes and Hazzard had to leave early to make curfew, the baseball player continued to boogie to his heart’s content.

The overriding purpose