Tommy Kono, Olympic weightlifting legend, dies at 85

Tommy Kono
USA Weightlifting
1 Comment

Tommy Kono, arguably the greatest weightlifter in U.S. history, died Sunday at age 85 due to complications from liver disease, according to NBC’s affiliate in Hawaii.

Kono won Olympic gold in 1952 and 1956, silver in 1960 and six straight World titles from 1953 to 1959.

He set 26 world records across four weight classes and was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and the International Weightlifting Hall of Fame.

“For some reason, Hawaii thinks of people as their own people, like a family or something like that, and this is why here in Hawaii I feel completely at home,” Kono said in 2012, according to “I moved here in 1955, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Kono, who struggled with asthma as a child, and his Japanese-American parents were moved from Sacramento to an internment camp at Tule Lake, Calif., during World War II.

“I’ve accepted the fact that they [the U.S. government] had to do it, you have to live with it, and that’s it,” Kono said in 2015, according to Kyodo News.

Kono was later drafted into the U.S. Army for the Korean War but was kept home after officials learned of his Olympic potential.

“So you could say that weightlifting may have saved my life, because instead of getting shipped to Korea, I had a bigger assignment that was to represent the United States at the Olympics in Helsinki [in 1952], and that was a great opportunity for me,” Kono said, according to

MORE: U.S. Olympic team reaches 100 qualified athletes