Biography of Kato Sawao (1946-VVVV)

Japanese gymnast, born in Sugadaira, Niigata Prefecture (Japan), on October 11, 1946. It was the most prominent star of the golden age of world gymnastics that was dominated by the battle that fought Japan and the Soviet Union over the domain of the sport for 28 years: since 1952, the year in which the Japanese returned to the Olympic Games after World War II, until the boycotted 1980 Olympics in Moscow. Sawao won for his team and his country 12 medals, eight of them gold.

Kato was attracted by gymnastics at an early age and her coach and teacher was Akitomo Kaneko, Member of the Japanese team that finished fifth in 1952. He/She made his debut at the Mexico Olympics in 1968, under the pressure of having to defend the gold medal Japanese in the general test, won four years earlier by Yukio Endo. Its main rival was the Soviet Mikhail Voronin, in whom the Soviets had deposited hopes to regain the Championship. From the beginning he/she was a fight melee between determined gymnasts. The Soviet was imposed in almost all exercises except the rings (where Kato got the bronze) and soil (where was gold). He/She also helped Japan to win his third straight title in the combined team test.

In 1972, in Munich, Kato repeated his feat of the general champion, became the third gymnast in history winning the title in two consecutive Olympic Games. Kato would be also gold medals in parallel bars and combined equipment testing, and many others of silver in the uneven bars and the horse with rings.

Although Kato has never won a World Championship, the heroic effort that took place in 1974 in Varna, the Black Sea Bulgarian port, left amazed spectators. While doing your exercise in the parallel bars, he/she fell, breaking the arm. For long minutes he/she was laying on the mat, holding the shoulder and slowly forced to rise. With TALC rubbing his hands, he/she tried to hide the injury from her coach. He/She returned to the appliance and, with an unbearable pain, the exercise ended. Would later say: "I wanted to end the full movement. For me, it was very important to do so".

In his last Olympic participation, in 1976, Kato, 30 years, confronted the young and compact Andrianov, Soviet athlete who had finished fourth in Munich. It was another epic battle for the overall title. No other Olympic gymnast had won before the test three times in a row. Kato had a memorable performance, but loosened in the last 3 years. It lost by 1 point. However, his silver medal earned him a special place in Olympic history. Only another gymnast had managed to win two gold medals and one silver in the general: the Italian Alberto Braglia in 1906, 1908 and 1912. Kato put the finishing his career with another individual gold on parallel bars, plus the test combined team title.