A spry 96 and grinning ear to ear, Yosh Uchida weaves his right arm around the triceps of three-time hammer throw Olympian Ed Burke and begins to turn him for a good-natured takedown. Burke squeaks “help,” Uchida releases him and both men chuckle.
“You have to know how to roll out of that,” cracked Burke, who is 20 years Uchida’s junior and carried the U.S. colors as flag bearer at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
“He forgot I was in his class in 1959.”
Uchida will travel to Rio de Janeiro on Saturday for yet another Olympics during his long, distinguished career. There is no way he would miss these games and the chance to help coach and support his San Jose State University judo athletes, 2012 bronze medalist Marti Malloy and Colton Brown.
Since the 1964 Tokyo Games, where he coached the first U.S. judo team in the debut Olympic tournament, Uchida has only missed a couple of Summer Olympics including Beijing in 2008.
He has built a storied judo program at San Jose State over nearly seven decades coaching at the Bay Area school in California, and Uchida is credited for helping establish the weight class system now used in judo.
He can’t wait to cheer on the latest in a long line of Olympians he has groomed.
“To me, because Marti Malloy is a student, she was more or less dedicated to making the Olympic team and she made it,” Uchida said this week. “Now, her desire is to win. … Just all the time she was struggling to make the team with the idea to win, it will be great to go down and give her some boost and hope that I can be of some help.”
A Japanese-American, Uchida is known to eat a salad for breakfast and loves every kind of Japanese food. The son of Japanese immigrants, imagine Uchida heading back to Tokyo for the 2020 Games in four years at 100 years old.
That’s certainly the plan. Uchida just laughs thinking about it.
“I eat salad and that’s about it,” said Uchida, who served in the Army after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, far from an easy situation.
He always travels with Bob Nishime, a physician working with San Jose State Athletics, and notes, “I feel very confident with him around.”
No fears of the Zika virus, either.
When Uchida celebrated his birthday this past spring, 18 former Olympians were among the 200 to attend his party.
Still, Burke regularly checks up on Uchida and tries to see him whenever possible.
“You always want to grow up to be like Yosh,” Burke said. “Not to be short like he is, but to be the most honored man. If you go to Olympic Committee meeting, it’s Yosh Uchida, you go to international, it’s Yosh Uchida. And it’s all sport and it’s all his life by example. I can’t wait for the 2020 Games in Tokyo because Yosh Uchida will be the most honored man in all of Japan at that time.”