Home Biography Who Is Tommy Kono?A Guide to His Life and Career

Who Is Tommy Kono?A Guide to His Life and Career

Tommy Kono

Tommy Kono is a name synonymous with the sport of weightlifting. He is one of the most iconic figures in the sport’s history and is credited with revolutionizing weightlifting. 

Born in Sacramento, California, in 1930, Tommy Kono became one of the greatest weightlifters ever. 

In this article, we will delve into the life of this legendary athlete. In addition, we look at his achievements and contributions to the sport of weightlifting.

Personal Information 

Let’s take a look at Tommy Kono’s weightlifting personal life:

Birth Name

Tamio Kono

Date of Birth

June 27, 1930


Sacramento, California


85 years


167 cm (5ft 6in)


67-81 kg


Olympic Weightlifting




April 24, 2016

Early Life 

Bodybuilder Tommy Kono was born in a Japanese-American family in Sacramento, California. Growing up, he faced discrimination and racism due to his ethnicity. However, he found solace in weightlifting, which he discovered at a young age. 

Age 11

He began lifting weights at 11 and quickly discovered he had a natural talent for the sport.

Joined the U.S. Army

At the age of 18, Kono joined the U.S. army. He was stationed in Japan. 


He honed his skills as a weightlifter there and participated in his first international competition, the 1960 Summer Olympics held in Helsinki, Finland. He won a gold medal in the lightweight division, setting a new world record.

Tommy Kono


Tommy Kono’s records include a lot of medals and honors. In addition, he went on to achieve remarkable success in weightlifting, winning multiple gold medals and setting several world records. Here are some of his notable achievements:

Three-time Olympic gold medalist

Tommy Kono won continuous gold medals from 1953 to 1959. He won medals in the 1953 Helsinki Olympics, the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, and 1959. Rome Olympics. He is among the only four weightlifters in history to win three Olympic gold medals.

Six-time World Champion

Kono won six world championships, making him one of the most successful weightlifters in history.

Setting World Records

Tommy Kono set several world records in his career, including a world record in the clean and jerk at the 1959 World Weightlifting Championships, where he lifted 336.25kg (741.4 lbs).

Pan American Games

Kono won four gold medals at the Pan American Games in 1955 and 1959.

Contribution to the Sport of Weightlifting

In short, Tommy Kono’s contributions to the sport of weightlifting extend beyond his remarkable achievements as an athlete. He revolutionized weightlifting by introducing new techniques and training methods still used today. 

Here are some of his contributions to the sport:

The Kono Lift

Kono developed a new technique for the snatch lift, which involved a wider grip and stance. This technique, known as the Kono lift, revolutionized the snatch lift and is still used by weightlifters today.

Strength Training

Tommy Kono emphasized the importance of strength training in weightlifting, which was not common practice then. He developed a training program that focused on building strength. It helped him set world records and win gold medals.


After retiring from competitive weightlifting, Kono became a coach and trained several world-class weightlifters. It includes Olympic gold medalist Shane Hamman.


Tommy Kono’s legacy in the sport of weightlifting is unparalleled. He inspired generations of weightlifters with his achievements.

In addition, he makes great contributions to the sport and his dedication to training. 

Tommy Kono Death

Tommy Kono passed away in 2016, but his legacy lives on. Here are some of how he is remembered:

Tommy Kono

Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame

He was a popular Hawaii sports hall of fame member in 1999. 

The Tommy Kono Award

The International Weightlifting Federation established the Tommy Kono Award in his honor. The award is given to weightlifters who have contributed significantly to the sport.

Hall of Fame

Tommy Kono was inducted into several Hall of Fames, including the International Weightlifting Federation in 1993. 

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