Watching the men’s team gymnastics in Rio on Monday night reminded me of a story I first heard during the London 2012 Olympics. It gave me goosebumps then and it still does now.
It’s the very well-documented tale of Japanese gymnast Shun Fujimoto who, during the 1976 Games in Montreal, helped his country to the gold medal by hiding the fact that he had broken his knee earlier in the competition and continuing with two further events.
In those days, Japan were dominant in the men’s team gymnastics, having won gold in the previous four Olympics, and Fujimoto knew that in such a tight contest with their closest rivals the Soviet Union, any dropped points would mean an end to that reign and huge disappointment for his country and his teammates.
So after sustaining what must have been an excruciating injury during his floor exercise, he continued with his pommel horse routine, scoring 9.5, before moving on to the final event, the rings.
Of course, he knew that even if he could make it through that last performance he would have to land on his injured leg after a complicated dismount from a height of almost three metres.
Not only did he complete the routine but he made a solid landing on both feet and remained standing, to record an incredible 9.7, despite dislocating his kneecap and tearing the ligaments in his leg in the process.
One doctor is said to have remarked afterwards “How he managed to do somersaults and twists and land without collapsing in screams is beyond my comprehension.”
Here’s Fujimoto recalling his incredible feat, with footage of that final routine. As he lands you can see what happens to his leg, and also the grit and determination in his face not to let the pain show. I’m not pointing this out to be morbid but just to illustrate an inspirational story of sporting courage as this year’s Olympic Games unfolds.