Tetsuo Okamoto

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Tetsuo Okamoto
Personal information
Full name Tetsuo Okamoto
National team  Brazil
Born (1932-03-20)20 March 1932
Marília, São Paulo, Brazil
Died 1 October 2007(2007-10-01) (aged 75)
Marília, São Paulo, Brazil
Sport
Sport Swimming
Strokes Freestyle

Tetsuo Okamoto (March 20, 1932 – October 1, 2007) was a Brazilian swimmer.[1]

Okamoto had asthma, and began to swim to treat it at 7 years old. However, it was only when he was 15 years old, and the coach Fausto Alonso arrived to form a serious team in Yara Clube in Marília, that Tetsuo began to train in a good pool under the guidance of someone with knowledge of swimming. At that time, his training was only 2000 metres daily. By early 1949, aged 17, Tetsuo had climbed several positions in the Brazilian national ranking, and entered the South American Championship in Montevideo, his first international competition. There, he swam the three long distance races, reaching the finals of the 400-metre and 1500-metre freestyle. However, an event at the turn of the decade was a watershed in his swimming career.[2]

In 1949, a Japanese team (the 'Flying Fish') toured Brazil, and competed in Marília with excellent results, including victories over the Americans. Okamoto was fascinated with these swimmers and received the following advice: "if you want to have good results, you must train a lot more: 10,000 metres daily". Thus, his training changed drastically. Although the pool was unheated and he did not have goggles, Okamoto faced the cold and came out with eyes stinging with the chlorine, but carried out this routine.[3]

At the Brazilian Championship in 1950, he became champion for the first time, and his popularity and recognition began to grow. In January 1951, he became the South American record holder for the first time. He swam the 1500-metre freestyle in 19:24.3, breaking the Brazilian record by 40 seconds and the South American record by 13 seconds.[4]

At the inaugural Pan American Games in 1951, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he claimed two gold medals in the 400-metre and 1500-metre freestyle, and one silver medal in the 4×200-metre freestyle.[5] In the 1500-metre freestyle, he broke his own South American record.[6]

When he returned from Buenos Aires to Brazil, Okamoto received a big party in his hometown, Marília. There was a procession in an open car, and awards to the new Brazilian hero. At the same time, however, thieves robbed his house, taking several belongings.[7]

Three weeks after the Pan, he broke the South American record for 400-metre freestyle with 4:41.5, which had never before been in the hands of a Brazilian.[8]

At the South American Championship in Lima, Peru, in March 1952, Tetsuo won the gold medal in the 400-metre, 800-metre and 1500-metre freestyle.[9]

He was a bronze medalist at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki (1500-metre freestyle), the first Brazilian swimmer to win a medal at the Olympics.[10] Tetsuo won his heat with a time of 19:05.6, another new South American record and in the final won the bronze medal with a further South American record of 18:51.3 that would last ten years.[11]

After leaving swimming, Okamoto moved to the United States for several years, where he studied geology and business administration and started a company drilling artesian wells.[12]

He died in his city of birth, Marília, on October 1, 2007, due to heart and respiratory failure, caused by long-standing kidney problems which forced him to have frequent hemodialysis in the last years of his life.[13][14][15][16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Profile at Sports Reference". Sports Reference. 2013. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  2. ^ "The unforgettable Tetsuo - Part I". Best Swimming (in Portuguese). March 28, 2008. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Dies at age 75, pioneer of swimming". Folha de S.Paulo (in Portuguese). October 3, 2007. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  4. ^ "The unforgettable Tetsuo - Part I". Best Swimming (in Portuguese). March 28, 2008. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Brazil medals at 1951 Pan". UOL (in Portuguese). 2007. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  6. ^ "The unforgettable Tetsuo - Part I". Best Swimming (in Portuguese). March 28, 2008. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  7. ^ "First Brazilian gold in Pan American dies in Marilia". UOL (in Portuguese). October 2, 2007. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  8. ^ "The unforgettable Tetsuo - Part II". Best Swimming (in Portuguese). April 5, 2008. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  9. ^ "The unforgettable Tetsuo - Part II". Best Swimming (in Portuguese). April 5, 2008. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Profile at Sports Reference". Sports Reference. 2013. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  11. ^ "The unforgettable Tetsuo - Part II". Best Swimming (in Portuguese). April 5, 2008. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  12. ^ "What happened to?". Terceiro Tempo (in Portuguese). 2013. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Dies at age 75, pioneer of swimming". Folha de S.Paulo (in Portuguese). October 3, 2007. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Dies the 1st Brazilian swimmer medalist in the Pan American". Terra (in Portuguese). October 2, 2007. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Dies swimmer who won the 1st medal at the Pan for Brazil". Estadão (in Portuguese). October 2, 2007. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  16. ^ "First Brazilian gold in Pan American dies in Marilia". UOL (in Portuguese). October 2, 2007. Retrieved April 9, 2013.