- 20 Jul 1976
- Montreal 1976
Fujimoto bravery helps Japan make it five golds in a row - Gymnastics
The men’s gymnastics competition at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal was dominated by the Soviet Union and multiple champions Japan.
The Japanese team arrived at the Montreal Forum as the firm favourites having won the three previous Olympic gold medals as well as the team titles at the world championships in 1970 and in 1974.
Boasting greats such as Mitsuo Tsukuhara, the Japanese had built a formidable dynasty in the 1960s and 1970s, but the Soviet Union was eager to put that run to an end.
In each of the Games during that period, the Soviet team had claimed the silver medal, but with all-around champion Nikolai Andrianov in their ranks they were confident of success in Montreal.
However, they were undone in their bid by an act of incredible bravery and courage in the face of agonising pain.
In the opening floor exercises, Japan’s Shun Fujimoto fell awkwardly and broke his right kneecap. As he walked off the stage he refused to let the pain show, eager for his rivals not see any sign of weakness.
Amazingly he went on to record scores in the pommel horse and most memorably the rings before finally bowing out of the contest.
His performance in the rings discipline was agonising to watch. Knowing that he had to end his routine with a twisting double somersault dismount, his mind must have been racked by the pain in prospect.
Yet he landed the move superbly, albeit gingerly, and he then hobbled off the stage and missed the remainder of the competition.
The contest went right down to the wire and took a brilliant concluding horizontal bar routine from individual silver medallist Sawao Kato to ensure that once again Japan were crowned champions and the Soviet Union condemned to runner-up spot for a fifth straight edition of the Games.
The winning margin was just four tenths of a point and the heroic Fujimoto was able to rouse himself once more to ascend the podium and accept the applause from the appreciative Canadian crowd.