Former Japanese swimmer and Olympic medallist Yoshihiko Osaki passed away April 28th at the age of 76 due to interstitial pneumonia.
Osaki, who in his recent years stood as the chairman of the Japanese Masters Swimming Association, won two medals at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. There, he claimed silver in the 200m breaststroke behind USA’s Bill Mulliken with a time of 2:38.
There was a lot riding on Osaki’s swim as the Japanese had finished 1-2 in the 200m breaststroke at the 1956 Olympic Games. After Osaki’s silver it would take 12-years until another Japanese swimmer would medal in the 200m breaststroke at the Olympics, as Nobutaka Taguchi managed to claim bronze in Munich.
Osaki also swam a very important leg for the Japanese on the 4x100m medley relay in order to help them take home a bronze medal and come within striking distance of the Australian team.
He carried with him the tradition of breaststroke excellence for the Japanese, and much due to his efforts helped produce the first medley relay medal in Japanese swimming history.
It would be another 44 years before a Japanese men’s team would win an Olympic medal in the medley relay. That feat was achieved in 2004, much due to another great Japanese breaststroker: Kosuke Kitajima.
For Osaki’s large contributions to not just Japanese swimming, but global swimming, he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2006.
A service will be held for him May 1st at noon, led by his oldest son Hiroshi Osaki.