Nobutaka Taguchi (JPN)
1987 Honor Swimmer
FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1972 gold (100m, 200m breaststroke); 1976 member of Japan Olympic Team; WORLD RECORDS: 2 (100m breaststroke); WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1973 bronze (100m, 200m breaststroke); 1975 silver (100m breaststroke).
In 1972, Nobutaka Taguchi won Japan's first Olympic swimming gold medal since 1956. Fifteen years is a long dry spell for the proud nation that held the world's first competitive swimming championships in 1810. Japan dominated the 1932 and 1936 Olympics and won the breaststroke crown in 1928, 1932, 1936 and 1956 in spite of three radical rule changes that completely changed the stroke each time.
Taguchi did it all alone in 1972 beating three Americans in his Olympic victory. He was the only Nippon winner, as Americans dominated the 1971 Japanese Nationals the year before the Olympics, and he followed his Olympic triumph by again beating John "the rocket" Hencken in the Santa Clara Invitational in 1973. Taguchi's accomplishments are all the more remarkable in that he won during a five year era dominated by Hencken and David Wilkie, two of the greatest breaststrokers of all time. He also bronzed behind "the Rocket" and the "Flying Scott" in the 200 breaststroke at Munich and in both breaststrokes in the 1975 World Championships at Cali. He closed out his career at the Olympics in Montreal.
The highlight of his career was definitely his "Lone Ranger" over three Olympic champions and a fourth world record holder in Munich. Taguchi is today a world renowned construction executive, a fitting follow up for Japan's best constructed swimmer in many years.