Nobuyuki Aihara, Olympic Champion, Dies at 78
By DANIEL E. SLOTNIK
Published: July 19, 2013
Nobuyuki Aihara, a Japanese gymnast who won two gold medals at the 1960 Olympics in Rome and helped usher in an era of Japanese gymnastic dominance, died on Tuesday. He was 78.
The International Gymnastics Federation reported the death on its Web site but did not specify a cause or say where he died.
The Soviet Union had been a gymnastics juggernaut at both the 1952 Games in Helsinki, Finland, and in 1956 in Melbourne, Australia, whenJapan began ascending in the sport.
In Melbourne, Aihara, a 5-foot 1-inch, 117-pound floor specialist, won an individual silver medal in the floor exercise and shared in Japan’s silver medal in the team all-around, which combined the team’s best scores in six events. The Soviet Union took the gold in the team all-around.
The 1960 Games featured a Japanese all-star team of sorts: Aihara, Masao Takemoto, Takashi Ono, Yukio Endo and Shuji Tsurumi. In the floor exercise, Aihara narrowly beat the Soviet Union’s Yuri Titov, who won nine Olympic medals during his career. Aihara also helped the Japanese team defeat the Soviet Union in the all-around by fewer than three points.
The Japanese team went on to win the team all-around in the next four Olympics. The record of five consecutive victories in that event remains unbroken. The Soviet Union reclaimed the gold in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow; Japan had boycotted the Games to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Nobuyuki Aihara was born on Dec. 16, 1934, in Gunma Prefecture. He started his gymnastic career at 15 at the Nippon Sport Science University, coached by his future teammate Takemoto.
Aihara won the gymnastics world championships floor event in 1962.
In 1964, the same year Tokyo hosted the Olympics, he married Toshiko Shirasu, a gymnast and national team colleague. She helped the women’s team take the bronze medal that year in the team all-around. Aihara sat out the Games because of an injury.
He later turned to coaching and founded the Aihara Gymnastics Club in 1979.
Yutaka Aihara, their son, carried on the family gymnastic tradition by helping the Japanese team win the bronze medal in the team all-around at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
Information about survivors was not available.