Ho'o mali mali (kid 'em along )

(The following is a partial text of the "Ho'o mali mali" column, published on September 7, 1941 and written by the late Red McQueen, then sports editor of the Honolulu Advertiser.)

World's Greatest Coach

September 7, 1941

by Red McQueen

 Hawaii's aquatic stars returned from the Mainland Wednesday, bringing with them their third successive National AAU championship, won in a sweeping victory at Maplewood, Mo.

A gala welcome befitting champions was accorded the heroes. Mayor Petrie went to the dock to greet the boys and girls and to lead them in a parade up the main drag and on to the capitol where acting governor Hite commended them on their splendid achievements and told them that the Territory was mighty proud of each and everyone of them. The Aloha wound up with a luncheon in their honor given by the Junior Chamber of Commerce.

It was all very appropriate; the lads and lassies , too, certainly did the Islands proud both in the nationals and in their other appearances in Southern California. But I don't think the junior chamber and the AAU committee that combined in welcoming the champions, went far enough.

Out heading the procession, they should have had a squad of the city's finest, bearing a palanquin or a sedan-chair with the man responsible for Hawaii's return to aquatic supremacy, perched right up there where he belongs.

Yes, I mean Soichi Sakamoto, the greatest swimming coach in the world. Without this man of inexhaustible patience, I dare say that Hawaii would be no better off, swimmingly, than she was before he conceived the idea, four years ago, of organizing the Three-Year Swimming Club over on Maui. No one helped him - he originated the plan all by himself.

Its objectives, as the coach put it at the time, were:

  • To build up swimmers for the American Olympic team of 1940, and instill Americanism in the prospective swimmers.
  • To prove that a three-year, conscientiously worked out period, would be sufficient time to develop swimmer of Olympic caliber.
  • To give the young swimmers an ultimate goal to work for while feeling the spirit and inspiration of a united club.


The 1940 Olympics, originally scheduled for Tokyo and later Helsinki, were canceled because of the world conflict. Coach Sakamoto's Three-Year Club, however, achieved its purpose. Had the Games been held, Hawaii's swimmers, developed through Sakamoto's three-year program, would have formed the backbone of the American team and the chances are, they would have dominated the Olympics just as they did the recent championships at Maplewood.

Plan Produced Champions

While the club's objective was to develop swimmers for the Olympics, the canceling of the 1940 Games left the Nationals as the next goals. In 1939, in the championships held at Detroit, Coach Sakamoto's proteges captured their first team title and in addition, bagged two other crowns when little Kiyo Nakama came through to win the 200 meter freestyle and Maui won the 800 meters relay.

Following year in the championships at Santa Barbara, Sakamoto's lads chalked up their second straight meet victory and this time brought home four other titles. The 800 meter relay team repeated its triumph of 1939 and Kiyo Nakama won the 400 and 800 meter crowns, while his little brother Bunmei took the mile.

Sakamoto's boys were not the only ones putting Hawaii back on the swimming map. In 1939 youthful Fujiko Katsutani brought the Island its first women's championship in many long years when she captured the National title for the 200 meter breastroke, and repeated in 1940. Chieko Miyamoto annexed a second crown last year when she came through to win the 300 meter individual medley, the even in which she defended her title at High Point N.C., this year. Illness prevented Fujiko from winning her third straight championship in the breastroke at High Point.

Then came the deluge

It was not until this year's Nationals, however, that Hawaii reaped the full benefit of Coach Sakamoto's labors. Maui annexed eight out of the 10 swimming championships, failing to win only in the backstroke and medley relay, and scored its third straight meet championships with 71 points against 21 for the second place Towers A.C. of Chicago.

Bill Smith, Jr., Sakamoto's latest sensation, who shattered a dozen world and American records here in May and July, captured two titles, in the 200 and 400 meters; Kiyo Nakama defended his 800 meter crown and also came through in the 1,500 meters; Jose Balmores won the 200 meter breastroke and the 300 individual medley; Takashi Hirose grabbed the 100 freestyle and Maui won the club relay for the third straight year.

That is about as close an approach to a blitzkrieg of a championship as one can conceive.

The names and respective fame of our stars, particularly young Bill Smith, is being heralded around the world through magazine and newspaper articles. Even Bob Considine has done a piece about Bill. But, thus far, next to nothing has been written of the man responsible for bringing these lads to the fore and putting Hawaii back in the aquatic sun.

There can be no question that Sakamoto is the best swimming coach in the world today. He originated his Three-Year club to prove that he can develop champions over such a period. He needed but one year to build Bill Smith into our greatest swimmer since Duke Kahanamoku and the finest freestyler in the world today from the 200 meters to the mile.




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