News26 Apr 2010

Interview with Mikio Oda, first Japanese Olympic gold medallist


Japanese athletics legend Mikio Oda (© family of Mikio Oda)

As the first ever individual Olympic gold medallist from Asia, Mikio Oda is a hallowed figure in Japanese athletics.  The IAAF is delighted to present this wide-ranging interview conducted with the legendary triple jumper shortly before his passing in 1998.

Born in Hiroshima prefecture in 1905, Oda set the first of his Japanese national record in both the long and triple jumps when he was only 18 years old. His first Olympic Games were in Paris in 1924, where he competed in both the Long Jump and Triple Jump. In the latter he finished sixth abd thus became the first Japanese to finish in the top six at the Olympics. 

Four years later at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam, Oda won the first Olympic gold medal for Japan in the Triple Jump with a leap of 15.21m.  Incidentally, the distance of  his winning leap is commemorated with a 15.21m high flagpole at the Olympic stadium in Tokyo, the venue of 1964 Olympic Games. The pole is known as the “Oda pole.” In 1931, after graduating from Waseda University, Oda joined the Asahi Shimbun newspaper as a reporter. In that same year, he set a World record of 15.58m in the Triple Jump. 

After retiring from competition, Oda was an active sports administrator. He also joined a faculty at his alma mater, Waseda University.  In 1948, he became a member of JOC (Japanese Olympic Committee) and also served on the IAAF Technical Committee. In 1989, Oda was elected as an honorary president of the Japanese AAF, and served in this post until he passed away in 1998 at the age of 93. 

His name is commemorated at a track and field stadium as well as at the annual track meet in Hiroshima. The Oda Memorial track meet was inaugurated in 1967, with the 44th edition scheduled for 29 April.
This interview was conducted late in his life by Kazuo Chujo of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. It was translated into English by Oda’s son, Masao Oda, and James Gussman, the, son-in-law of Masao Oda.

A PDF file of the interview may be downloaded here.

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF

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