Oda jumps for joy
When modern-day athletes occasionally lament a lack of training facilities they would do well to ponder the experiences of Japanese jumper Mikio Oda.
Oda, from Hiroshima, would enter the history books at the Olympic Games in Amsterdam of 1928 by becoming the first Asian, never mind Japanese, to win an individual gold medal on the biggest sporting stage of them all. But it wasn’t until after a journey of epic proportions to get him to the Olympic Stadium on that slightly rainy, windswept afternoon.
Oda was a particularly versatile jumper but opted to specialised in the triple jump, finishing a respectable sixth place at the 1924 Games in Paris. Faced with making a similarly long trip to Europe, Oda’s only option was to take an epic train journey lasting several days through the heart of Siberia. With no training facilities en route, and his meagre budget meaning he had to eat the cheapest food available – usually soup – when he arrived in Amsterdam he was not quite in the best of shapes.
But an enjoyable training environment when he got to Holland focused his mind and he knew a strong performance could earn him and his Continent’s first individual gold medal. Running on a rutted grass track and jumping into an uneven sandpit, the conditions did not exactly suit world class jumping but it didn’t faze Oda one bit and he opened with a leap of 15.13 metres. The distance surprised him as he wasn’t the best of starters but it did serve to give him the added confidence he needed to go even further.
In the best round he recorded a mark of 15.21m which would not be bettered. By the time his medal ceremony came round, Oda had already left Amsterdam for a meet in Paris, and his gold was collected on his behalf by another Japanese athlete. Thirty six years later at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the main stadium flag measured at 15.21m in honour of Oda’s breakthrough gold medal for Asia.