20 Jul: The Gymnast with the Shattered Kneecap

Shun Fujimoto scored 9.5 on the pommel horse and 9.7 on the rings at the Montreal Olympics on 20th August, 1976 – despite having a badly damaged kneecap, having landed catastrophically during a tumbling run.

That should, by rights, have ended his and his team’s medal hopes – but he decided not to tell his coach or fellow competitors about the injury, and carried on with his routines. As a result of his endurance and persistence, Japan won Gold.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly ask whether Fujimoto’s remarkable resilience had any cultural antecedent in Japanese traditions of self-sacrifice; explain how his regrets may still be influencing contemporary Olympians; and consider whether gymnastic judging criteria should take more account of grimacing… 

Further Reading:

• ‘FUJIMOTO Shun: The price of gold’ (Olympics.com): https://olympics.com/en/news/fujimoto-shun-the-price-of-gold

• ‘The Joy of Six: great Olympians’ (The Guardian, 2008): https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2008/aug/07/olympics20082

• ‘The Olympic Show: Shun Fujimoto’ (NBC):