Tommy Kono


“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 at the internment camp where his own country imprisoned him, then went on to serve his country’s military and represent it at the Olympics.

Kono’s obituary includes vocabulary like auspicious and lucrative, and ends with an evocative simile.

It also provides a notable example of cause and effect. Mr. Kono, recounting a conversation with an attendee at a competition 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.”


*What is grit? It’s passion and perseverance for long term goals, according to Angela Duckworth. Listen to “How to Get More Grit In Your Life,” the (fascinating) Freakonomics podcast in which she’s interviewed.