Haruhiro Yamashita - Japan
Good evening Ladies & Gentlemen,
In 1960, when I was 22 years old, just about the time I was to graduate from the University of Physical Education, Mr. Kurimoto, the President of the university, suggested to me to stay and prepare for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. So, I remained at the university as an assistant.
I resided at the university gymnasium. One day in the gym, I saw a young gymnast executing an unusual vault. I was astonished! He ran and approached the vaulting board and immediately upon touching the hands on the horse, the body was in a piked position and somersaulted forward over the horse. He had good height than most of us. I thought it was just great!
Then, I tried the same vault and succeeded. However, my first phase of the vault, prior to the hands touching the horse, I was too low. So I moved the vaulting board 2 meters further away and I improved my technique. I started to use this vault at the competitions. But, the Code of Pts. did not have a value of this vault. So I did not receive a high score.
Then we went to Europe for competitions. And Mr. Spith, who was on the FIG Committee, took many photos of my vault from all angles. He stated that it was a great vault and after talking with the men's technical committee, they named the vault "The Yamashita". After that, I always received a score better than a 9.6. It was smooth sailing.
My first world competition, at the 1962 Czechoslovakia World Championships, I was not in good condition. Therefore, I told my team leader, Mr. Takemoto, that I would like to be the alternate. But, he would not listen. So, I had to compete. In the All-Around I came in 7th and won the silver in the vault. I was more than satisfied with the results. Then, my aim was to win the Gold Medal on the vaulting event at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. However, within the next two years, I felt that someone may do a better "Yamashita". So I decided to add a twist to the vault.
At the present time, twisting is no problem. However, back in 1962, a twist was difficult to execute. So on the trampoline, I practiced a backdrop and executed a forward full twist. One day I was able to execute the full twist well. At that time, Mr. Takemoto was watching me and stated that you were performing the move with your hands above the head. After that, I started to execute the vault in that manner.
At the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, during my training, I was able to execute the new Yamashita only 50% of the time. But, I needed this vault since I had practiced it time and time again. On my first Yamashita without a twist, I scored a 9.9. On my second twist I scored a 9.75 and easily won the event. The media called it the "New Yamashita".
Somehow, after the Games, I lost the ability to twist. So at the 1966 Dortmund World Championships in Germany, I performed the regular "Yamashita" once from the neck and the other from the croup and won the event.
At the present time, gymnastics has made tremendous progress in difficulty. And I believe that it may continue to do so. Let us not forget the ideas of Ludwig Jahn, the Father of Gymnastics.
At the present time I am the Executive Director of the Japan Gymnastics Association. I will do my very best to keep improving gymnastics.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame board members for selecting me to this highest honor.
Thank you very much.
1962 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Gold Medalist & World Champion
1964 OLYMPIC GAMES
Gold Medalist & Olympic Champion
1966 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Gold Medalist & World Champion
2000 Inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame