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An Athelte’s Sacrifice: Fujimoto Shun in Montreal 1976 Olympics

Born on the 11th of May 1950, Fujimoto Shun(藤本俊) was an artistic gymnast

from Japan. Now 73 years old, he became a professor at Yamanashi University and a gymnastics coach after his career ended at the young age of 26.

He was born in Hiroshima roughly 6 years after the city was bombed; Fujimoto Shun first participated in the 1976 Montreal Olympic games with his team, replacing Kasamatsu Shigeru. Kasamatsu, being one of the most important members of the team, had had an appendectomy just days before the games, and he had to withdraw from the games.

Japan hadn't given up the gold medal since the 1960 Rome Olympics and was aiming for the 5th consecutive win. There were high expectations from the Japanese team. Fujimoto explained: “We wanted to preserve Japanese gymnastic history, which was kept for a long time. So it wasn’t pressure, but rather we were eager to keep our past alive.”

No matter how eager the athlete was, he would face an obstacle on the team’s way to first place. Fujimoto first injured his right knee on a tumbling run during the floor exercise, after which the Soviet Union was leading. Such an occurrence should have shattered the Japanese team’s dream of keeping gold, just like the athlete’s kneecap, but Fujimoto was determined not to let his pain cost his nation’s win. “I felt air inside my knee,” the athlete had said. “But I tried not to show that I was injured because I did not want the judges or anyone to think that I was hurt.” “I did not want to worry my teammates,” Fujimoto added later. “The competition was so close I didn’t want them to lose their concentration with worry about me.”

The second event, pommel horse, would go on to damage his knee further, but Fujimoto was successful in keeping his injury a secret.

The athlete had been confident during his routine for the rings, but he had to land a full-twisting double somersault from 2.4 meters high on his injured leg for Japan’s victory, which dealt his knee extensive damage.

After landing, it was made clear that he had been injured; he was wincing in pain and stumbling on his left leg, but he restored his balance and remained standing with his arms in the air. Fujimoto earned a score of 9.7, establishing a personal best on the rings.

He had dislocated his knee and torn ligaments on the right leg. His knee would never heal completely. He was ordered by doctors to withdraw. One said:

“ How he managed to do somersaults and twists and land without collapsing in screams is beyond my comprehension. ”

He was out of the competition, but his team pushed on in his stead too, and Japan was able to pursue their goal of keeping the gold, with a mere lead of 0.4 points.

Fujimoto’s story makes me think about ethics. His choice greatly benefited his team and nation( it was also his ambition to win first place for his nation, so we can say he fulfilled that goal for himself too), but cost him his career. From a utilitarian perspective, it would be considered a good choice, but was it truly?

Afterward, the athlete was asked if he would do what he did again, and he plainly replied: “No, I would not."

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