By the time of the 1932 Olympic Games, Nambu was the reigning world record holder in the long jump. However, at the Games in Los Angeles he was bothered by a sore back and placed third. Two days later he entered the triple jump and finished first, setting a world record and achieving the rare distinction of holding the world record in both horizontal jump events.
A native of Sapporo in northern Japan, Nambu tried to practice indoors during the winter. In fact, he was banned from local department stores because he would do his workouts by weaving among the customers while running up and down the stairs. Nambu honed his technique by studying the world around him. To learn how to run, he watched horses. To learn how to leap, he watched frogs and monkeys. To learn how to move his arms, he watched the wheels of trains. After retiring from competition, Nambu worked as a sports editor for Mainichi Shimbun, served as head athletics coach for Japan at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, and worked as a college professor and president.