Monday 31 August 2020

Olympic sleuthing finds Japan's 'first medal' is not what it seems

An Olympic medal held by a Tokyo museum and thought to be the first won by a Japanese athlete was recently discovered to be from a different event at the same games, meaning the location of Japan’s first medal, won by tennis player Ichiya Kumagai, is unknown.

The Prince Chichibu Memorial Sports Museum and Library has concluded that the silver medal from the 1920 Games in its collection is not Kumagai’s won in the men’s singles, rather it is that of Kumagai’s doubles partner Seiichiro Kashio, museum officials said.
Ichiya Kumagai (front) competes in the men's singles tennis tournament at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium. | JAPAN TENNIS ASSOCIATION / VIA KYODO

The pair won the silver in the doubles event at the same games, but after Kumagai claimed the singles medal, the museum said.

The museum’s investigation found that Kumagai’s singles medal won on Aug. 23, 1920, at the games in Antwerp, Belgium, is likely long-missing.

It has amended information on its website to reflect the discovery, now noting the medal in its collection is from the men’s doubles.

The discovery came after the Japan Tennis Association inquired about how the museum came to possess the medal.
Records at the museum showed that the silver medal was donated in 1966 by Kashio’s younger brother and Kumagai. Kashio died in 1962.

A silver medal from the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, long believed to have been that of tennis player Ichiya Kumagai, has been determined to have belonged to Kumagai’s doubles partner Seiichiro Kashio. | KYODO

The museum at the time expressed its appreciation to Kashio’s sibling for the donation of the medal, suggesting that it was not the one awarded to Kumagai in the singles competition, the officials said.

The museum also found a newspaper article from 1964 saying one of Kumagai’s two silver medals was lost while he was returning from Belgium and the other was loaned to someone who never returned it.

The newspaper wrote that Kashio’s doubles medal had been misplaced but was found in 1963 at the home of his parents and was then given to Kumagai, the officials said.

According to the Japan Tennis Association, Kumagai’s son Kazuo, 92, said his father had expressed regret about the loss of the medal that was loaned to someone.

(Source: JT)

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