1972 Japan MAG Training WAG

1972: Japan’s Olympic Trials Results and Goals for Munich

Who would make Japan’s men’s team for the Munich Olympics? The gymnastics world couldn’t wait to find out. As a Hungarian newspaper put it, “It is easier to win a gold medal than to get onto the Japanese national team.”

In the end, there were three members of the 1970 World Championship team (Nakayama, Tsukahara, and Kenmotsu), the 1968 Olympic All-Around Champion (Kato), the 1970 University Games All-Around Champion (Okamura), and Kasamatsu, who tied for fourth at the 1972 Riga International and won one of Japan’s qualifying competitions for Munich. 

On the women’s side, the team was aiming for a bronze medal after its disappointing fourth-place finish in Mexico City.

What follows is a translation of the teams’ goals and the results from the selection competitions. This post also includes an article from Hungary on the men’s team selection.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – OCTOBER 24: Sawao Kato of Japan competes in the Floor of the Artistic Gymnastics Men’s Individual All-Around final during the Mexico City Summer Olympic Games at the National Auditorium on October 24, 1968 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

Quick Links: Goals | Results | Reaction to the Men’s Team

The Goals

The Japanese men were aiming for four consecutive team titles and three consecutive all-around titles. On the women’s side, the goal was a team bronze medal after a “disgraceful” performance in Mexico City.

1. Main reinforcement measures in the past 4 years

3 consecutive wins for men’s team in Rome, Tokyo, and Mexico. In the all-around competition, we aimed to win 4 consecutive team titles and 3 consecutive individual titles in Munich, in order to break the record of 2 consecutive wins in Tokyo (Endo) and Mexico (Kato). In the women’s team, reflecting on the disgraceful 4th place finish in Mexico, we set a goal of placing 3rd in the team competition in Munich while strengthening the younger age groups. In the first stage, at the Ljubljana World Championships (1970), the men’s team aimed to win three consecutive team championships and the first individual all-around championship, while the women’s team studied the new rules, analyzed the state of world gymnastics, and pursued accuracy and idealization of the compulsory routines, developed new techniques, created originality in difficult optional routines, and eliminated all points deductible under the rules. The goal was to strengthen the gymnasts in order to overcome their conditioning problems. In the women’s competition, we aimed to strengthen the younger age groups in particular and provided many opportunities to strengthen through overseas tours, etc. In particular, we invited excellent foreign athletes every year to provide them with many opportunities to study and improve.

Japan’s Official Report on the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich

1. 過去4ヵ年の主な強化策

ローマ,東京, メキシコと男子団体3連勝。 そして個人総合では, 東京 (遠藤), メキシコ (加藤)と2連勝の記録を更新すべく, 団体4連覇, 個人3連覇を目標にミュンヘン大会の強化に当たった。 女子においてはメキシコ大会での4位という不名誉な成績を反省し, 低年齢層の強化を実施しつつミュンヘン大会団体3位入賞に目標をおいた。 まず第1段階としてはリュブリアナ世界選手権 (1970年) において男子は団体3連勝と初の個人総合優勝を目標に新ルールの研究, 世界の体操の情勢の分析と規定問題の正確さ、理想像の追求,新技術の開拓, 難技中心の自由問題の独創性,ルール上の減点対象の皆無, コンディショニングの克服対処等をねらいとして強化につとめた。 女子においては特に低年齢層の強化を目標とし、 多くの海外遠征等による強化の機会を設け、特に毎年外国の優秀選手を招待し研鑚の場を多くするようにした。

After the team was selected, the Japanese women added these goals:

The goals were (1) 3rd place in the team competition, (2) 36th place in the individual competition, and (3) a top 6 finish in each event for Matsuhisa.

Although women’s gymnastics has a very short history, we set the goals (1) based on past results, and for goal (2), we estimated that Matsuhisa would score an average of at least 9.10. For goal (3), we expected that she would be able to make it, given that she is a well-known competitor, the variety of difficulty levels, and her performance in international competitions. I expected that the team would be able to achieve the goal (3).

目標は(1) 団体総合第3位 (2)個人総合36位全員入賞(3)松久選手の種目別6位以内入賞一とした。

これらは,歴史が非常に浅い女子体操ではあるが過去における成績から予想して目標 (1) を立て,目標(2)についても最低平均9.10の得点がとれるという目算を立て, また目標 (3) については、対外的にもよく知られた選手であること,難度の豊富さや国際試合の成績からみても何とかやれると予想した。

My thought bubble: Talk about pressure for Matsuhisa.

The Results of the Selection Competitions

(2) Background of Athlete Selection

The competitions for the selection of athletes were conducted as follows:

NHK Cup Gymnastics Championships

Munich Olympic Athletes Selection

(June 25-27, 1971, Yokohama)

Men’s Individual All-Around Championships

1. Kato Sawao (Otsuka) 112.00
2. Honma Fumio ( ” ) 110.15
3. Nakayama Akinori (Chukyo Univ.) 110.00
4. Tsukahara Mitsuo (Kawai Gakki) 109.40
5. Miki Shiro (Otsuka) 109.175
6. Kasamatsu Shigeru (Tokai TV) 107.925

Women’s Individual All-Around Championship

1. Matsuhisa Miyuki (NITS) 73.95
2. Habu Kazunaga (NITS) 73.70
3. Hirashima Eiko (“) 72.95
4. Saka Kayoko (NITS) 72.05
5. KomiyaYumiko (NIDAI) 71.30
6 Inaya Kiyoko (Wakayama Pref.) 70.85

25th National Gymnastics Championships

Munich Olympic Games First Preliminary Round

(November 20~23, 1971 Kofu)

Men’s Individual All-Around Championships

1. Nakayama Akinori (Chukyo Univ.) 111.9875
2. Tsukahara Mitsuo (Kawai Gakki) 111.4125
3. Okamura Teruichi (Kiyo Bank) 111.1625
4. Kato Sawao (Otsuka) 110.9500
5. Honma Fumio (Otsuka) 109.9125
6. Kasamatsu Shigeru (Tokai TV) 109.9000

Women’s Individual All-Around Championship

1. Matsuhisa Miyuki (NITSUS) 75.075
2T. Hanyu Kazunaga (NITS) 73.975
2T. Hirashima Eiko (NITS) 73.975
4. Hasegawa Takako (NITS) 71.925
5. Saka Kayoko (NITS) 70.825
6. Miyamoto Toshiko (Kokugakuin HS) 70.575

Munich Olympics 2nd Qualifying Round

(April 15~16, 1972)


1. Kasamatsu Shigeru 111.850
2. Nakayama Akinori 111.800
3. Tsukahara Mitsuo 111.625
4. Okamura Teruichi 110.275
5. Kato Sawao 109.925
6. Kenmotsu Eizo 108.775
7. Honma Fumio 108.450


1. Matsuhisa Miyuki 74.500
2. Hanyu Kazunaga 71.875
3. Hirashima Eiko 71.300
4. Saka Kayoko 69.700
5. Hasegawa Takako 67.500
6. Miyamoto Toshiko 67.425
7. Oda Chieko 67.350

The top seven finishers from the final results of the second qualifying round were chosen as the representatives, but since Chieko Oda withdrew from the nomination due to insufficient physical condition, Yabe Nobue, the runner-up, was added in place of Oda.

Japan’s Official Report on the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich

2. 選手選考の経緯




(昭和46年6月25日~27日 横浜)

1 加藤沢男 (大塚ク) 112.00
2 本間二三雄 ( ” ) 110.15
3 中山彰規 (中京大教) 110.00
4 塚原 光男 (河合楽器) 109.40
5 三木 四郎 (大塚ク) 109.175
6 笠松 茂 (東海TV) 107.925

1 松久みゆき (日体ス) 73.95
2 羽生 和永 (日体大) 73.70
3 平島 栄子 (“) 72.95
4 坂 佳代子 (日体ス) 72.05
5 小宮由美子 (日 大) 71.30
6 稲谷 清子(和歌山県庁) 70.85

(昭和46年11月20日~23日 甲府)

1 中山彰規 (中京大教) 111.9875
2 塚原 光男 (河合楽器) 111.4125
3 岡村輝一 (紀陽銀行) 111.1625
4 加藤沢男 (大塚ク) 110.9500
5 本間二三雄 (大塚ク) 109.9125
6 笠松 茂  (東海TV) 109.9000

1 松久みゆき (日体ス) 75.075
2 羽生 和永 (日体大) 73.975
2 平島 栄子 (日体大) 73.975
4 長谷川たか子(日体大) 71.925
5 坂 佳代子 (日体ス) 70.825
6 宮本 敏子 (国学院高) 70.575



1 笠松 茂 111.850
2 中山彰規 111.800
3 塚原 光男 111.625
4 岡村輝一 110.275
5 加藤 沢男 109.925
6 監物 永三 108.775
7 本間二三雄 108.450

1 松久みゆき 74.500
2 羽生 和永 71.875
3 平島 栄子 71.300
4 坂佳代子 69.700
5 長谷川たか子 67.500
6 宮本 敏子 67.425
7 小田千恵子 67.350

そして第2次予選の最終結果から上位7人を代表とすることになったのであるが, 女子選手のうち, 小田千恵子選手が体調不充分のため代表推薦を辞退したため, 小田選手に代えて次位者の矢部信恵選手を加えることとなった。

A Reaction to the Men’s Team

The Hungarian newspaper Népsport took a deeper dive into the significance of the team selection.

Will the Japanese gymnasts achieve great results in Munich? 

The third and thus the last Olympic selection competition has ended in Tokyo for the male gymnasts. Based on what the experts saw, they expect that the gymnasts from the land of the rising sun will have overwhelming success in Munich. 

Just to show the power of Japan they mention that at the World Championship in 1970 only the top three competitors of the all-around team managed to get into the Olympic selection. Those were Kenmotsu Eizo, Tsukahara Mitsuo, and Nakayama Akinori. 

Honma Fumio, who has been among the world’s best gymnasts the past few years, only got a place as a reserve. Apart from the trio mentioned above, Kato Sawao will also be present at the Bavarian capital. He was the winner of the Olympics in Mexico, who had to skip the World Championship in Ljubljana because of an Achilles tendon rupture. Kato, who by many is deemed as the world’s best gymnast right now, is apparently in such good form as never before. Japan is bringing two new gymnasts as well to keep up the hegemony. Kasamatsu Shigeru and Okamura Teriuki surpassed themselves, and this is how they got their place in the team. 

The Japanese seemed to be unbeatable in four events: still rings, parallel bars, high bar, and floor. Now they are preparing with even harder exercises to defend their lead. Their home competitions are also very hard so they can ensure that only the best manage to go to the international arenas. Those who managed to get there almost have an easier time there. Some put it this way: 

it is easier to win a gold medal than to get onto the Japanese national team. 

It is well-known that Japanese judges are extremely strict. At the selection competition, Kato Sawao was the one awarded with the highest score, 9.65, for his new and fresh performance on the high bar, which he only managed to perform without errors at the third selection competition. The competition was tight on parallel bars, as well, where the score of the six team members was between 9.60 and 9.40. Katō was their best here, as well, while Okamura was the one to receive the lowest score. 

All in all, the six gymnasts preparing to go to Munich are all knowledgeable, balanced competitors, who may reach the finals in all six events and are likely to win medals. 

The pommel horse may be their only weak point, but there must be a new winner there, as the previous reigning champion, the Yugoslavian Cerar won’t be in Munich. On the Japanese side, Kenmotsu has the best chance to be the best in this exercise. In the sixth exercise, vault is where the Soviet gymnast, Nikolai Andrianov, may prove to be tough competition for the Japanese. 

Looking at the six names in the Japanese team, one name has to be mentioned specifically, and that is Nakayama. Not only because, with his 29 years, he is the oldest among them, but also because he is the most experienced gymnast — in some sense — the unluckiest competitor. He is a 163 cm tall and 57 kg PE teacher, who won several world championships and Olympics. But one gold medal — the most valuable one in his eyes —, the gold for the individual all-around competition he never managed to win. So far, he only won a bronze medal for this, at the World Championships in 1966, at the Olympics in Mexico, and at the World Championships in Ljubljana. 

The multiple individual world champion, who is best and most effective on rings, won four gold medals in Mexico. 

Apart from the team competitions, he also received a gold medal for his exercise on the rings, parallel bars, and the high bar. Now he takes another stab, maybe the last one, at winning the gold medal still missing from his collection. In Munich apart from the Soviet gymnasts ,his biggest opponents will be his younger fellow countrymen, Kato, Kenmotsu, and Tsukahara. 

As surprising as it may sound, it is true that the Japanese gymnast hegemony does not have a long history. It was exactly 40 years ago when they appeared at the Olympics in Los Angeles for the first time, but they suffered a crushing defeat. Twenty years later in Helsinki, they had still no competitor who could win a medal.* But now they want to surpass their biggest success so far, which was at the World Championship in Ljubljana, where they won seven out of the eight gold medals. So now in Munich, they want to win all eight of them.** But will they succeed? 

Népsport, July 21, 1972 

Tarolnak-e a japán tornászok Münchenben? 

Tokióban lezajlott a japán férfi tornászok harmadik és egyben utolsó olimpiai válogatóversenye. A látottak alapján a szakértők arra számítanak, hogy a „felkelő nap országának” fiai minden eddiginél elsöprőbb sikert aratnak majd Münchenben. 

Annak bizonyságául, hogy Japán milyen erőkkel rendelkezik, megemlítik, hogy az 1970. évi világbajnokságon győztes csapatból csak az akkori összetett verseny első három helyezettjének, Eizo Kenmocunak, Micuo Cukaharának és Akinori Nakajamának sikerült beverekednie magát az olimpiai válogatottba. 

Fumio Honunának, aki évek óta elismerten a világ legjobbjai közé tartozik, ezúttal csak a tartalékok között jutott hely. Viszont az említett trión kívül ott lesz a bajor fővárosban Szavao Kató, a mexikói olimpiai győztese, aki két éve Achilles-inszakadás miatt nem vehetett részt a ljubljanai VB-n. A sokak által a világ jelenlegi legjobb tornászának tartott Kató állítólag olyan kirobbanó formában van, mint még soha. Japán két tehetséges újonccal veszi fel a küzdelmet a hegemónia megőrzéséért. Sigero Kaszamacu és Teruki Okamura önmagát felülmúlva versenyzett és így került be az utazó csapatba. 

A japánok négy szeren, gyűrűn, korláton, nyújtón, valamint talajon a közelmúlt években úgyszólván verhetetleneknek bizonyultak. Most újabb és az eddigieknél is nehezebb gyakorlatokkal készülnek vezető helyűje megvédésére. Ugyanezt a célt szolgálja az is, hogy a hazai versenyek rendkívül nehezek, így sikerül elérniük, hogy valóban a legjobbak kerüljenek a nemzetközi porondra. Akik oda eljutnak, azokra ott már szinte könnyebb feladat vár. Egyesek ezt így fogalmazzák meg, hogy 

könnyebb az olimpián aranyérmet nyerni, mint a japán válogatottba bekerülni. 

A japán pontozóbírák szűkmarkúságára egyébként jellemző, hogy a válogatóversenyek legmagasabb pontszáma 9.65 vett, ezt Szavao Kató kapta a nyújtón végrehajtott újszerű gyakorlatáért, amelyet csak a harmadik válogatón sikerült először hiba nélkül végigcsinálnia. Korláton is igen magas színvonalú versenyek voltak és a hat csapattag eredménye 9.60 és 9.40 pont között volt. Itt is Kató bizonyult a legjobbnak, míg a legkevesebb pontot az újonc Okamura kapta. 

Mindent egybevetve, a Münchenbe készülő hat japán tornász kivétel nélkül nagy tudású, kiegyensúlyozott versenyző, aki akár mind a hat szeren döntőbe kerülhet és ott éremesélyesként versenyezhet. 

Talán csak a lólengés az egyetlen gyengébb pontjuk, ahol egyébként mindenképp őrségváltásra kerül sor, mert a védő, a jugoszláv Cerar már nem indul Münchenben. Japán részről Kenmocunak van a legtöbb esélye arra, hogy ezen a szeren az élen végezzen. A hatodik szeren, a lóugrásban viszont a fiatal szovjet tornász, Nyikolaj Andrianov törhet borsot a tarolni készülő japánok orra alá. 

A hat főnyi japán csapat névsorát vizsgálgatva egy nevet külön is meg kell említenünk, Nakojamáét. Nemcsak azért, mert 29 évével ő a legidősebb, hanem azért ■ is, mert a legrutinosabb japán tornász — bizonyos értelemben — talán a legbalszerencsésebb versenyző. A 163 centi magas és 57 kiló súlyú tornatanár számtalan aranyérmet szerzett már világbajnokságon és olimpián egyaránt. De egy arany — a számára legértékesebb —, az egyéni összetett verseny aranya mindeddig kicsúszott a kezei közül. Eddig mindig csak a bronz jutott neki, az 1966-os VB-én éppúgy, mint a mexikói olimpián és a ljubljanai VB-n. 

A többszörös egyéni világbajnoknak, akinek talán a gyűrű a legerősebb és a legeredményesebb szere, Mexicóban négy arany jutott. 

A csapatversenyen kívül a gyűrű, a korlát és a nyújtó egyéni versenyének befejezése után is aranyérmet akasztottak a nyakába. Most újabb, talán utolsó kísérletet tesz a nagyon áhított arany elnyerésére. Münchenben a szovjet tornászokon kívül kétségtelenül a nála fiatalabb honfitársai, Kató, Kenmocu és Cukahara lesznek legerősebb ellenfelei. 

Bármilyen meglepően hangzik is, a japán tornászhegemónia rövid múltra tekinthet vissza. Éppen 40 éve, Los Angelesben jelentek meg először az olimpián, de megsemmisítő vereséget szenvedtek. Húsz évvel később, Helsinkiben sem akadt még érmes versenyzőjük. Most  azonban túl akarnak tenni eddigi legnagyobb sikerükön, a ljubljanai VB-n, ahol a lehetséges nyolc aranyérem közül hét az övék lett. Münchenben tehát a nyolcadikat is meg akarják kaparintani. Vajon sikerül-e nekik a tarolás? 

Note #1: The article must have meant that Japan didn’t win any gold medals in 1952. Japan won two silver medals at the 1952 Olympics: Uesako Tadao on floor and Takemoto Masao on vault. In addition, Ono Takashi and Uesako Tadao tied for bronze on vault.

Note #2: The Japanese press had mixed predictions. At one time, they said that seven gold medals were their goal:

Despite reported injuries, the agile gymnastic performers, dubbed the “Seven Samurai of Gymnastics,” are confident of winning seven golds.

The Daily Yomiuri, July 19, 1972

Elsewhere, the Japanese Gymnastics Association was a little more reserved: 

“We are honored to hear such prediction [of winning seven gold medals in men’s gymnastics],” says Toshihiko Sasano, vice-president of the Japan Gymnastics Association. “But we really don’t know how things will actually turn out.”

The Daily Yomiuri, August 1, 1972

Spoiler: The Japanese men won five gold medals: team, all-around, rings, parallel bars, and high bar, which did fall short of their goal.

More on 1972

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