Tommy Kono

With the Olympics just under a month away, Google has replaced its homepage logo with a Doodle celebrating Tommy Kono, a Japanese-American weightlifter and Olympic gold medalist.

Tamio “Tommy” Kono was born on June 27, 1930 — 91 years ago, today — in Sacramento, California. In 1942, at the age of 12, Tommy and his family, all being of Japanese descent, were moved to one of the United States’ Japanese internment camps.

While living there, Kono’s neighbors introduced him to the sport of weightlifting. From then on, he put his efforts into athletics, at least in part as a way to strengthen his body to compensate for his childhood asthma.

In the years after World War II, Tommy Kono began competing in weightlifting competitions, overcoming discrimination to become a critical member of the U.S. national weightlifting team by 1952. In both 1952 and 1956, Kono earned a gold medal for the United States in the Summer Olympics.

During his weightlifting career, Tommy Kono set a total of 26 world records. This fact is made even more impressive by the fact that he set records across four different weight classes, something that no other weightlifter has accomplished. Hand-in-hand with his weightlifting, Tommy Kono was also an accomplished bodybuilder, winning the title of Mr. Universe in 1954, 1955, 1957, and 1961.

Kono’s career came to an unexpected end in 1964, when he suffered a knee injury that prevented him from competing in that year’s Olympic Games. However, he passed on his insights to rising athletes as a coach to various Olympic teams through 1976. For his contributions to the sport — including the popularization of elbow and knee bands — Tommy Kono was inducted into the Weightlifting Hall of Fame in 1993.

In today’s animated Google Doodle, we see a depiction of Tommy Kono in action. More specifically, he performs the “clean and jerk” — a move that involves lifting a barbell and holding it directly overhead with straight arms and legs. To make it a proper Google Doodle, each side of the barbell has three weight plates, appropriately colored and labeled with a letter of “Google.”

Over on Google’s official Doodle blog, you can find interesting insights into the true man behind the athlete, as well as an interview with the Doodle’s artist, Shanti Rittgers.

My father would always say weightlifting was 30% physical and 70% mental and his ability to stay focused with a positive mental attitude was his greatest strength throughout his weightlifting career.  He always encouraged positivity and growth and used phrases he felt would help you through life.  “Do what you should before you do what you want” was one of his sayings. That holds true for me still today.

— The Family of Tommy Kono

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About the Author

Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

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