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Date
02 Aug 1952
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Helsinki 1952

Consistent Konno wins four medals in four events

Over two editions of the Olympic Games, US swimmer Ford Konno proved a paragon of consistency, winning four medals in four events, but it was at Helsinki 1952 that he reached his zenith, coming away with two titles and two Olympic records.


Konno was not big for a swimmer. He stood just 1.68m tall, but had shown natural ability in the water from a young age. Born in Hawaii, he grew up in Honolulu and then went to university in Ohio, where he was on both the swimming and diving teams.

He prepared for the 1952 US Olympic trials by returning to Hawaii where he trained in the only 50m swimming pool within easy reach, which was a salt water pool. As a result he developed a sinus infection that affected his performances so badly that he almost missed out on qualifying for the US Olympic team, finishing second in the 400m and third in the 1,500m.

By the time he arrived in Finland, though, Konno had fully recovered and was confident of hitting peak form. His first race came in the 1,500m heats, where he won by half a length to qualify for the final. There he found himself up against Japan's Shiro Hashizume, who had broken the Olympic record in his own heat.

Hashizume went off at top speed again, but Konno was never far behind. Three quarters of the way through the final, the Hawaiian drew level and then slowly moved into the lead as his Japanese opponent appeared to tire. Konno's lead slowly increased and he finished in first, breaking his rival's Olympic record that had stood for just two days.

Next up was the 4x200m freestyle relay, which was also expected to be a clash between the USA and Japan. In a surprise tactical switch, the Japanese put their fastest swimmers on the first two legs, and had opened up a sizeable lead at the halfway mark. Swimming the third leg, Konno clawed back a three-second gap back to just 0.7 seconds, enabling Jimmy McLane to finish the job and lead the Americans home to victory.

Many expected Konno to win a third gold in the 400m freestyle, but despite another of his trademark sprints into the finish he couldn't quite catch France's Jean Boiteux.

He left Helsinki with two golds and a silver from his three events, but also came away with another special prize, as he went on to went on to marry his team-mate Evelyn Kawamoto, who herself won two bronze medals in Finland.

Four years later, Konno was once more a member of the 4x200m relay team that took a silver medal in Melbourne, taking his tally to four medals from four events.

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