How Japan Changed Swimming Forever | The Olympics On The Record

How Japan Changed Swimming Forever | The Olympics On The Record

In the early years
of the 20th century, the United States owned
Olympic swimming. Every Summer Games, the best Americans proved
way too strong for their international rivals. Stars like Duke Kahanamoku and
Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller were famous around the world. How could a smaller nation, without the tradition and the
resources of the USA, hope to compete against this
sporting superpower? That was the question facing
the Japanese in the early 1920s. Japan did not even enter a team
for the swimming events at the Summer Games in Antwerp. There were just two swimming
pools in the whole of Japan. And then…a little miracle. At the 1928 Olympic Games
in Amsterdam, a Japanese railway
worker called Yoshiyuki Tsuruta won the 200-metre breaststroke
event. It was only the second Olympic
gold medal in Japanese history and it had
a quite extraordinary effect on the sport’s popularity
back home. They remained way behind the
United States, but it was a start. And the Japanese were working
on some new ideas. They had been watching the
Americans and the way they achieved
success. They watched and they learned. They thought, “These guys are
good, but we can do better.” They started using underwater
photography to see just what was going on
beneath the surface. They were sports-science
pioneers and what they discovered would
change the way people swam. Technically, the accepted
convention was for the swimmer to be
square-shouldered, to remain sturdy in the water with
as little roll as possible. But the Japanese were not
convinced. They tested other methods and found small but significant
improvements. Japanese swimmers were taught
to roll their shoulders more, to increase the length
of their arm movement, and to put more emphasis
on their kicking – freestyle, breaststroke,
backstroke. They revised it, they tested
it, they coached it. All of Japan started to get
excited about the next Olympic Games
in Los Angeles. As the Japanese team set sail
from Tokyo in 1932, there were 200,000 fans
there to wave them off. In LA, the first final
was the 100m freestyle. Gold for Yasuji Miyazaki. Silver for Tatsugo Kawaishi. USA in bronze. The relay would tell the world
a great deal about the quality
of Japanese swimming. The Japanese four were out
of the pool before the USA had even
finished the race. The next day, the USA finally
secured gold in the 400m freestyle. One last desperate surge by
Buster Crabbe of the US, and he just beats off Taris and
sets a new Olympic record of 4 minutes, 48 and
four-tenths seconds. Then Japan dominated
the 100m backstroke – gold, silver AND bronze. The eyes of the crowd are on
the American flash, Adolph Kiefer,
18-year-old Chicago boy and the world’s fastest dorsal
swimmer, who puts Japan’s aquatic
supremacy to a crucial test, who swept everything
before them in 1932. The final day
of the Olympic Gala saw another Japanese one-two
in the 200m breaststroke followed by gold and silver
again in the 1,500m freestyle. In four years, the Japanese had
successfully turned the Olympic results table
on its head. Eventually,
the rest of the world caught up with the Japanese. They learned to race the proper
way, the Japanese way. A comfortable win for
Australia. Second place – Ford Konno,
America. And third – Nikitin, Russia. As that great swim coach
Salvador Dali once said, “Only fools don’t copy.”

89 Replies to “How Japan Changed Swimming Forever | The Olympics On The Record”

  1. Those leotard swimming suits looked pretty cool. Better than the modern full-bodied ones that artificially lower swimming times.

  2. well as a matter of fact, USA still dominates the swimming event, they have never finished 4th in any of the relays, winning gold in every 4×100 medley, and getting silver or bronze in freestyle relas only 5 or 6 times……. when it comes to swimming USA is far far ahead, only michael phelps has enough medals to be a country in olympics and still ranking under 50

  3. Thank you Youtube for recommending this video to me. I was watching tigers having babies and now I am watching how Japan changed swimming.

  4. OMG, that Japanese ingenuity! Such smart, innovative people. Wonderful history that few knew about, especially Americans. The media here wants everyone to think the US is best in everything and has always dominated – NOT true! Japan is awesome in the summer and winter Olympics now!

  5. Don't forget about drugs, we use lots of them, all kinds and often. Oh yeah you might beat us once but we got bucket loads of drugs to beat you back.

  6. You could say this was the dawn of sports science.

    Yes, the strength of individuals counts but the technique is just as important.

    Japanese took advantage of being the first but the rest of the world soon followed and caught Japan.

  7. It would be so much fun to go back in time and just dominate with all the things we know today and all the items we have available to us today.

  8. Many many thanks for providing this vidio & informations. Ancient or old records are always. Motivating to proceed ahead with confidence❤️??????????????????????????????

  9. They might add that the surge of Americans to the top was lead by Hawaii Swim Club and coach Sakamoto. The swimmers were primarily of Japanese ancestry.

  10. I wonder how this affected American public sentiment towards Japan, especially with WWII around the corner

  11. I would be interested in the history of the flip turn. I see videos in the 1950s showing some using it, others not. Wikipedia credits Al Vande Weghe in the 30s. I can’t find any footage of him demonstrating the new technique and who were the first adopt it. This is probably as important as the Fosbury flop is to the high jump.

  12. Oh.. they were researching swimming style for olympic.. i thought those scientists were doing live action swimming club anime… I could've sworn they were playing deja vu – initial d song…

  13. I really appreciate Japan.
    It is technologically advance
    Yet is disciplined nation
    And also maintained tradition..
    Wow……such a hard-working and polite nation…??
    Love from India

  14. Wow, Congratulations to the Japanese Swimming champions and their coaches! Its a sad thing that their secrets were revealed and copies by their competitors. But at least, they have proved that they can beat the Americans in a very unique way.

  15. The japanese also had a go at marathon and 10k always innovating until others figure out their ways.Then physical attributes take over.

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