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Shuhei Nishida – da:wikimedia.org

Article by Giovanni Manenti

Until it made its appearance in the Olympic panorama, starting from the 1952 Helsinki Games, the “battleship“Soviet to rebalance – especially in the women’s sector and in competitions – the Medalist of Athletics, this Discipline was a real “terrain of conquest” by American athleteswho could take advantage of cutting-edge facilities in their colleges, as well as counting on first-rate coaches…

And this even when a single athlete participates in only one edition of the Games, as he abandons the activity after obtaining his degree, the turnover in Team USA is so rapid, so much so that he makes more presence news of a specialist capable of installing such leadership, as in the case of the protagonist of our story today.

Among the various races of the Athletics program, it stands out – having regard to the dominance of “stars and stripes” – the Pole Vault, which saw Uncle Sam’s representatives win the Gold Medal without interruption from the inaugural edition in Athens 1896 until Mexico City 1968 (!!) or for 16 consecutive Olympics…

And, furthermore, until the 1928 Amsterdam Games, the US specialists also added silver, with the exception of the Dane Henry Petersen who occupied the second step of the podium in 1920 in Antwerp, before the best Japanese jumper made his appearance. of every era.

Born on March 21, 1910 in Nashikatsuura, a city of just over 10 thousand souls, Shuhei Nishida combines sports practice with studies, so much so that he attended the Faculty of Engineering atWaseda University“, a circumstance which allowed him to take part in the Paris 1928 edition of the “Summer Student World Championships”, nothing more than the precursors of the subsequent Universiade…

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In the transalpine capital, the 18 year old Japanese won silver, preceded (3.80m to 3.70m) by his compatriot Hiroshi Kasaharawhile in the same year, the The Amsterdam Olympics saw the American triumph, monopolizing the podium with Sabin Carr (Gold measuring 4.20 m), William Droegemuller and Charles McGinnis and the great disappointment of world record holder Lee Barnes who failed all three of his attempts at 4.00 metres, thus finishing no better than fifth.

This “split“useful to highlight how wide the margin still was between Nishida and the best at an international level, but his young age plays to the advantage of the Japanese who, already two years later, on the occasion of the renominations”International University Games” taking place in Darmstadt, Germany, he achieves success by improving to 4.11 m so as to consider himself ready to challenge the Americans at homethat is to say at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics…

In the meantime, however, the world summit has also risen, thanks to Bill Graber, who crossed the bar set at 4.37 m at the Stanford Olympic Trials – with Bill Miller also equaling the previous record of 4.30 m set by the aforementioned Barnes – thus making him the automatic favorite for the Gold Medal.

But the tension of the Olympic competition can play nasty tricks and here it is Graber suffers the same fate as Barnes four years earlier, after at an altitude of 4.00m only five remained in contentionnamely the US trio and the two Japanese Nishida and Shizuo Mochizuki…

Con the bar set at 4.15 m Mochizuki leaves the scenethe third American George Jefferson “raisin” the measure while Nishida takes the lead by exceeding the bar on the first attempt, unlike Miller and Graber who risked big, succeeding only on the third test.

And when, at the rate of m.4.20, Miller and Jefferson find the right concentration by measuring on the first attempt and Nishida on the secondhere is the world record holder (virtually off the podium…)play it all for All”, reserving the three tests available to him for 4.25 m but when it’s not a day there’s little to do, failing them all and having to settle for fourth place…

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With the podium already assigned, it takes hours to evaluate the placements, with the 22-year-old Japanese secured silver by clearing 4.25m in the third testwhile Miller in his indisputable “Day of Days“he does the same but at the first test, still having to”shake off” a Nishida who, as a good representative of the Rising Sun, does not intend to give up.

And, in fact, despite Miller crossed the bar in the first test even at 4.30 m, he can’t celebrate yet, seeing as the Japanese does the same on the third attempt, and then finally surrendering at the higher altitude of 4.315 m which the American surpasses in the third test At your service …

First medal in the Pole Vault for his country, Nishida attempted the Olympic adventure again four years later at the 1936 Berlin Games, after having won the previous year at theInternational University Games” in Budapest preceding (m.4.30 to 4.10) his compatriot Sueo Oe.

In the German capital, the underdogs still go to the US trio formed by Graber, as well as Earle Meadows and Bill Seltonwho at the New York Trials, finished tied with the measurement of 4.34 m, avoiding continuing the race having already obtained the pass for the Old Continent…

But also on the platform of “Olympic Stadium” you call them they are not in favor of Grabergiven that – after the three Americans and the two Japanese Nishida and Oe remained in the race at an altitude of 4.15 m, the same situation as four years earlier in Los Angeles – the 25-year-old Californian is the first to surrender at 4.25 m measure that only Nishida and Selton pass on the first try, with the Japanese to take the lead in the partial classification having achieved a great deal so far immaculate.

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The race is decided when the bar is set at 4.35 m, a measurement that Meadows achieves in the second round so as to continue the series of US successes, while Nishida and Oe, who finish tied with 4.25 m, provide proof of fair play as for the return home, after the silver had been awarded to Nishida due to fewer errors, they think it best to cut the medals in half and then put them back together to form two halves silver and half bronze.

Having completed his studies, Nishida joined the IT giant Hitachi, and then occupied an important role in the Japanese Federation, as well as in the Olympic Committee of his country and, moreover, he had all the rights, as the first to have “scared” American pole vault specialists…

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