With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics just around the corner, Google took to their daily “Doodle” to highlight legendary multi-sport strength athlete Tamio “Tommy” Kono above the search bar. The Doodle is titled “Tamio “Tommy” Kono’s 91st Birthday” and was illustrated by Los Angles-based artist Shanti Rittgers. Kono died on April 24th, 2016 at the age of 85. He’s widely regarded as one of the most impactful athletes and coaches in 20th century strength sports.
The Doodle features an animated illustration of Kono successfully hoisting a loaded barbell overhead for a smooth clean & jerk. There are three colorful weight plates on each side of the barbell, each emblazoned with one letter to spell out the word “Google.”
Since the plates lack a weight designation, we’d like to imagine Tommy Kono is hitting a smooth PR. We wouldn’t be surprised; to date, he’s still the most decorated male weightlifter of all time.
Did you miss the Doodle? You can see it here via Google’s archive.
A Master of All Things Strength
While the daily Doodle features Tommy Kono as a weightlifter, his career as a strength athlete was wide ranging as a competitor and coach. He was a prolific weightlifter, winning gold at the Olympic Games in 1952 and 1956, and a silver medal in 1960. He also won the IWF World Weightlifting Championships six times. As a weightlifter he set an astounding 26 world records and seven Olympic records.
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Beyond the platform, Kono also took to the stage as an elite bodybuilder, winning the Fédération Internationale Haltérophile et Culturiste (FIHC) Mr. Universe contest four times in 1954, 1955, 1957, and 1961. This was before the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding contest was the undisputed top competition in that sport, and one could argue that while Kono was at the height of his weightlifting career, he was also the world’s top bodybuilder.
Kono’s career didn’t end when he personally stopped competing. After hanging up his weightlifting belt, the world champion transitioned to coaching, shepherding a new generation of Olympic weightlifters on the 1968 Mexican Olympic team, 1972 West German Olympic team, and 1976 USA Olympic team.
Hawaii, Kono, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games
Kono had a strong presence in Hawaii. In his later years, he trained regularly at the Nuuanu YMCA in Honolulu (encouraging other athletes who trained alongside him), was inducted into the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame in 1978, and lived in the state until his death in 2016.
In early May of 2021, USA Weightlifting announced that the center of training operations for the 2020 Olympic Games would be based in Honolulu, Hawaii, shortening flights to and from Tokyo while enabling athletes to be near their family members as they train.
Perhaps the proximity to one of the greatest athletes in the sport of weightlifting is something Team USA can use to their advantage as they prepare for the big stage. With the USAW roster set, many weightlifting fans and commentators worldwide are noting this could be the most successful Olympic Games for Team USA in nearly four decades.
Featured image: Tamio “Tommy” Kono’s 91st Birthday by Shanti Rittgers (Google Doodle)