Tommy Kono

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“Weight lifting is 50 percent mental and 30 percent technique. Power is only 20 percent, but everybody has it reversed.”


Grit is a popular topic in education these days,* and Tommy Kono’s life provides a case study: the man whose New York Times obituary twice includes the word frail was a world champion weightlifter.

His life offers instruction in irony, as well: Kono began lifting weights in the internment camp where his own country imprisoned him, then went on to serve that country’s military and represent it at the Olympics.

It also provides a notable example of cause and effect. Mr. Kono, recounting a conversation with someone who had attended one of his competitions in Austria, said: “He told me he was a 13-year-old boy in the audience that day and was so inspired he ran home and started working out.”


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*What is grit? It’s passion and perseverance for long term goals, according to Angela Duckworth on the Freakonomics podcast “How to Get More Grit In Your Life.