Japan's Furuhashi Passes Away in Rome
ROME: Japanese swimming hero Hironoshin Furuhashi was found dead of natural causes in his hotel room during the swimming World Championships, the Japanese Swimming Federation said on Sunday. Furuhashi, 80, was attending the championships in his capacity as honorary president of the Japanese Swimming Federation as well as vice-president of world swimming's governing body FINA. Kazuo Sano, chairman of the Japanese Swimming Federation, said concerns were first raised when Furuhashi didn't come down for breakfast at his hotel.
FINA president Julio Maglione said Furuhashi had died in his sleep. "It is with great sadness that we inform you about the loss of FINA vice-president Hironoshin Furuhashi who passed away last night in his sleep here in Rome," said Maglione.
"Fu-san, as we called him, was a reference for FINA. FINA will always remember him as a kind and efficient official. He was a very clever man and a big friend. In this very sad moment for FINA we want to express our condolences to Hironoshin Furuhashi's family and all the aquatic community in Japan." Maglione also announced that a minute's silence would be held in Furuhashi's memory ahead of Sunday's finals, the last day of the championships.
Furuhashi was the the most successful athlete ever to reach the second-highest position in the FINA Bureau. He took up his place in 1968 after having enjoyed a stellar career as a swimmer. Furuhashi was born on September 16, 1928, and his early swimming career was halted by World War II. The war ended with a devastating defeat for Japan in 1945, but despite poor nutrition and lack of competition during Japan's post-war period, Furuhashi broke the then-world record in the 400 metres freestyle at a domestic competition in 1947. His time was not ratified as a world record because Japan was excluded from the International Aquatics Federation (FINA), and Japan was not permitted to compete in the 1948 Olympic Games in London. The Japanese federation held a meet of its own in Tokyo with the same events and as near the same conditions as possible with the London Olympics that year. There, Furuhashi won both the 400 and 1,500 metres freestyle races in world best times that were well below those of the Olympic gold medallists. Furuhashi again notched world-best times in Los Angeles in 1949, where a Japanese delegation competed at the US championships by invitation but found themselves facing a tense anti-Japanese atmosphere.
"The atmosphere there was bad ... and people there called us the 'Jap'," a derogatory term for the Japanese, Furuhashi wrote on the Japanese Olympic Committee's website, recalling the event. But Furuhashi said that US fans were won over by their strong performances. "After we made world records in the competition, Americans soon apologised to us ... and gave me the pet name, the 'flying fish of Fujiyama (Mount Fuji - Japan's iconic and highest mountain),'" he said. "I was moved by Americans' frankness and large hearts," he added of the experience.