Hideko Maehata

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Hideko Maehata
Hideko Maehata.jpg
Personal information
Full name 前畑 秀子
Nationality Japan
Born (1914-05-14)May 14, 1914
Hashimoto, Wakayama, Japan
Died February 24, 1995(1995-02-24) (aged 80)
Sport Swimming
Strokes breaststroke

Hideko Maehata (前畑 秀子 Maehata Hideko?, May 14, 1914– February 24, 1995) was a Japanese breaststroke swimmer and the first Japanese woman to earn a gold medal in the Olympics.

Maehata was born in Hashimoto, northeastern Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, as the daughter of a tofu producer and as a child learned to swim in the Kinokawa River. In the fifth grade of elementary school, she set an unofficial youth record for the 50-meter breaststroke. She went on to win numerous competitions, and was sponsored to attend a women’s boarding school in Nagoya which specialized in swimming, but the sudden death of her parents in 1931 forced her return home. However, she was selected for the Japanese Olympic swimming team for the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and won the silver medal in the Women's 200 m breaststroke event.

During the post-Olympic celebration after her return to Japan, she stated that she was considering to retire from competitive swimming due to family issues, but then Tokyo mayor Hidejirō Nagata reportedly asked her why she did not bring back a gold medal. Over the next four years, Maehata trained very hard, and set a new world record for the 200-meter breaststroke on September 30, 1933.

During the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Maehata competed in a dead heat against the reigning German national champion, Martha Genenger, winning the gold medal for the Women's 200 m breaststroke by over one second. Despite the time difference, the race was broadcast live in Japan by NHK Radio.

In 1937, Maehata married Masahiko Hyodo, a professor of the medical school of Nagoya Imperial University, and retired from competition. She was awarded the Purple Ribbon of Merit by the Japanese government in 1964. She suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1983. In 1990 she was designated a Person of Cultural Merit, the first sportswoman in Japan to receive such an honor. She died of acute renal failure in 1995.

Competitive highlights[edit]

  • 1932 Olympics 200 m breaststroke - 3:06.4
  • 1936 Olympics 200 m breaststroke - 3:03.6


  • Pieroyh, Doris. Their Day in the Sun: Women of the 1932 Olympics. University of Washington Press (1996) ISBN 0295975547
  • Lohn, John. Historical Dictionary of Competitive Swimming. Scarecrow Press, (2010). ISBN 0810867753

External links[edit]