October 11, 1946 |
Gosen, Niigata, Japan
|Height||1.63 m (5 ft 4 in)|
|Weight||59 kg (130 lb)|
|Discipline||Men's artistic gymnastics|
Sawao Kato (加藤 沢男 Katō Sawao, born October 11, 1946) is a retired Japanese gymnast and one of the most successful Olympic athletes of all time. Between 1968 and 1976 he won twelve Olympic medals, including eight gold medals.
Kato was born in Niigata Prefecture and studied at the Tokyo Kyoiku University. He first competed in the Olympics in 1968, alongside his elder brother Takeshi. They won the team competition, with Sawao also taking gold medals in the all-around and on the floor. He placed third in the rings event.
Four years later the Japanese men's gymnastics team dominated the 1972 Olympics, taking 15 out of 21 individual medals. Kato won gold medals all-around and in the parallel bars and silvers on the horizontal bar and pommel horse. He aimed for an unprecedented third gold medal in the all-around at the 1976 Summer Olympics, but was defeated by Nikolai Andrianov. The team competition was close this time, but the Japanese defeated the Soviets by four tenths of a point, earning their fifth consecutive title. Kato closed out his Olympic career by retaining his title in the parallel bars.
Kato is one of only ten athletes to have won eight or more Olympic gold medals. He is one of the most successful male gymnasts ever at the Olympics: his eight gold and twelve overall medals are best rivaled by Nikolai Andrianov's seven gold and fifteen overall, Boris Shakhlin's seven gold and thirteen overall, and Takashi Ono's five gold and thirteen overall. He won more Olympic gold medals than any Japanese Olympian, and is second after Ono in the total number of medals. In 2001 Kato was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.
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