Two-time gold medalist Tommy Kono, who overcame asthma as a young child to set 26 world records in weightlifting, died today in Honolulu, according to a family member. He was 85.
Born in Sacramento, Calif., Kono moved to Hawaii in the 1970s after putting together an incredible career that included a gold medal at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, at 149 pounds. He then won another gold medal at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics at 182 pounds and captured a silver medal at the Olympics Games in Rome at 165 pounds.
Kono is the only Olympic weightlifter in history to have set world records in four different weight classes: lightweight (149 pounds), middleweight (165), light-heavyweight (182 lb) and middle-heavyweight (198). He was named to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame on July 6, 1990 in Minneapolis, Minn., and the International Weightlifting Hall of Fame in 1994 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Kono was named the top weightlifter of all-time by the official magazine of the International Weightlifting Federation.
“He is in my opinion the greatest weightlifter of all-time,” former Olympic weightlifter Pete George told the Honolulu Advertiser in 2003. George also won a gold medal at the 1952 Olympics and a silver in 1956. “He would always go where the competition was the toughest. Some of us went where we thought we’d get a medal.”
In addition to Olympic success, Kono won six world championships in events that included the clean and jerk, clean and press, and snatch. Kono was the head coach of the United States’ Olympic weightlifting team in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.
He was also a successful bodybuilder, winning the Iron Man Mr. World title in 1954.