- 24 Oct 1968
Gymnast Kato launches stellar Olympic career with three golds
While Mikhail Voronin won the battle for the greatest volume of medals in Mexico, Sawao Kato of Japan took three gold medals to Voronin's two. It was the start of a stellar Gymnastics career that would see him eventually win a total of eight Gold medals.
Kato was part of a golden generation of Japanese gymnasts who had propelled the nation to the top of the sport. Like Voronin, he was versatile and was entered into all eight events. But remarkably, he took a gold medal in each of the first three – the individual all-around, the team all-around and the floor exercise. There was plenty of evidence in all three that Japan was the pre-eminent nation in the sport – Japanese athletes took four of the top five positions in the individual all-around, with only Voronin beating any of them. In the team event, in which Kato produced the overall highest score, they won with some comfort, while the floor exercise saw the nation filling the top four positions in the standings.
Kato went on to add a bronze medal in the rings to his collection, but his Olympic career was far from over. The Munich Games of 1972 would see him win a further three gold medals while he would take him another two from Montreal in 1976, giving him a total of eight Olympic gold medals – a male record in the sport of gymnastics, and just one behind the nine golds of female gymnast Larisa Latynina. Indeed, Kato remains one of only 11 athletes from any sport to have won more than seven gold medals.
In later life, Kato retained his connection with the sport and became one of its best-known judges. He also took on a role as a university professor.