Sawao Kato bigraphy, stories - Gymnast

Sawao Kato : biography

October 11, 1946 -

Kato, born in Niigata Prefecture and a student of the Tokyo Kyoiku University first competed in the Olympics at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City as a member of the Japanese team that dominated international gymnastics at the time. The Japanese team won the team competition with ease, with Kato as the top performer, winning the individual all-around as well. In addition, Kato won the gold medal in the floor exercise, and placed third in the rings event.

Four years later, when the Games were held in Munich, Kato repeated his victory in the all-around competition. At the podium, he was accompanied by two countrymen, indicating the dominance of the Japanese team, which retained its team title with ease. Kato added a fifth Olympic title on the parallel bars, while settling for silver in the pommel horse and horizontal bar contests.

Kato tried for an unprecedented third gold medal in the all-around at the 1976 Summer Olympics, but was defeated by Nikolai Andrianov of the Soviet Union. The team competition was close this time, but the Japanese defeated the Soviets by four tenths of a point, earning their fifth consecutive title. Kato closed out his Olympic career by retaining his title in the parallel bars.

He is one of only ten athletes to have won eight or more Olympic gold medals. Kato is one of the most successful male gymnasts ever at the Olympics (his 8 gold medals and 12 overall medals are best rivalled by Nikolai Andrianov's 7 gold and 15 overall, Boris Shakhlin's 7 gold and 13 overall, and Takashi Ono's 5 golds and 13 overall). Also, he has won more Olympic gold medals than any other male gymnast and more Olympic gold medals than any Japanese Olympian (no other Japanese Olympian has won more than 6). Kato is only one medal short of having the most medals of any Japanese Olympian (his 12 medals vs Ono's 13). Kato was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2001.

At the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Kato became involved in a controversy in the men's team competition when he disagreed as the head judge with a routine on the horizontal bar that American gymnast Brett McClure was performing. This led McClure to perform a different routine, which caused him to do poorly, leading the United States to a silver medal in the event.

Today, Kato is a professor at the University of Tsukuba.

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