1964 Tokyo Games Weightlifting Legend Watches Niece's Olympic Attempt

A ban on Olympic spectators in Tokyo meant Japanese weightlifting legend Yoshinobu Miyake wasn’t able to cheer on his niece Hiromi in person on Saturday. So the 82-year-old, who won gold at the last Tokyo Games in 1964, gathered the university team he manages in their training room to watch her medal attempt on TV. When Miyake won his second Olympic gold in 1968 in Mexico City, his younger brother Yoshiyuki Miyake also won bronze in the same weight class.

Superhuman feats of strength run in the family — his niece Hiromi Miyake is also a double Olympic medallist, having won silver at London 2012 and bronze at Rio five years ago.

But her attempt for a third medal took place before empty stands, with almost all events at the pandemic-postponed Tokyo Games forced behind closed doors as Covid-19 cases surge.

Setting up a projector on a table in the gym, Yoshinobu Miyake had dressed up for the occasion in a grey suit with a pale shirt and tie — complete with slippers and socks.

The student weightlifters at Tokyo International University wore their team polo shirts and blue shorts as they sat on their gym benches to watch the event, surrounded by heavy equipment.

“One for all, all for one,” said a banner written in English and Japanese on the wall of the training room, where everyone wore masks.

Miyake was disappointed, however — Hiromi finished in the women’s 49kg category without a medal, while the first weightlifting gold of Tokyo 2020 was taken by China’s Hou Zhihui.

“I felt sorry for her,” the elderly former athlete said.

“She has strength. But she was uncertain. It means she wasn’t able to empty her mind. She tried but couldn’t. I thought this meant her muscles weakened.”

It was the fifth time Hiromi had competed at an Olympics, which her uncle called a “wonderful” feat: “She contributed to the world and Japan.”

While he expressed some tough love — saying she should have tried harder not to lose out, and that lifting may be getting harder at 35 years old — he also said the pandemic had made competition stiff.

“I think it was a cruel year for her. There are people who made it to the Olympics thanks to the postponement. That cannot be helped,” he said.

Miyake said this Olympics would be the last for his family. But his students may well be the stars of future Games.

A 20-year-old member of the university team, Chisuzu Ando, said that since she started weightlifting, her goal has been to compete at the Olympics.


“So I wanted to go to the venue and enjoy the atmosphere. Unfortunately we couldn’t… it’s not like the usual Olympics. It’s the lonely Olympics.

“But when I watched the competition, I thought to myself I will work hard to win a medal at the Olympics or to be number one or two.”

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