Tommy Kono, who trained with York Barbell in the 1950s and won two Olympic gold medals in weightlifting, died on April 24 in Honolulu at the age of 85, according to multiple reports.

His daughter, JoAnn Sumida, told The New York Times that the cause of death was hepatic encephalopathy caused by cirrhosis.

Kono, who was born in Sacramento and set multiple world records, famously took up the sport of weightlifting as a boy while being held in a Japanese-American internment camp in northern California.

Kono is memorialized in a mural in downtown York displaying York as "Muscletown, USA," along with Bob Hoffman, York Barbell's founder, and John Grimek, a York native who won the first two Mr. America bodybuilding events.

Hoffman died in 1985, and Grimek died in 1998.

Jan Dellinger, a former member of York Barbell's magazine staff, said he used to give tours of the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in Emigsville, where photos of Kono are prominently displayed, and met Kono several times.

"He was probably America's greatest weightlifter, but on top of that, he's very nice," Dellinger said. "He was a great spokesman for weightlifting and probably just humanity in general."

Dellinger described Kono as the "Tom Brady of weightlifting" during his prime, or Peyton Manning, depending on preference. He recalled a period during the mid-'60s when Kono won six consecutive world championships at his weight class.

"He had a real blend of physical skills," he said.

Kono, who had asthma growing up, originally trained just "to be healthy," according to The New York Times.

— Reach David Weissman at

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