Hideko Maehata’s family ran a tofu business. She already excelled in breaststroke swimming in elementary school. Against the customs of the time she was allowed to pursue academics as well as a swimming career. In 1931 both her parents died within a period of six months from strokes. After winning “only” the silver medal in Los Angeles, just 1/10th second behind Australian Claire Dennis, she was criticized by the Tokyo mayor, as at the time Tokyo was running for hosting Olympic Games. Instead of retiring from competition Maehata underwent a strenuous training program leading to a world record of 3:00.4, set in September 1933. In 1936 she eventually won the gold medal in Berlin beating local favorite and European Champion Martha Genenger, and becoming Japan’s first female Olympic champion.
In 1937 Maehata married a professor of medicine but continued to promote swimming, and 41 years after their competition in Berlin she met Martha Genenger and swim with her over 50 m. Like her parents, she sustained a stroke in 1983 but returned to the pool for rehabilitation. At the age of 80 years Maehata died of acute kidney failure. She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1979 and was also highly decorated in Japan, for instance she was awarded the Purple Ribbon. She also was an enthusiastic player of the Japanese game of Mah-jong.
Athlete Olympic Results Content
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