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Sakamoto's Swim Club

How a Teacher Led an Unlikely Team to Victory



Kids Can Press

(pub. 5.4.2021) 40 pages

Author: Julie Abery

Illustrator: Chris Sasaki

Character: Soichi Sakamoto

Overview: "The inspirational and little-known story of a dedicated teacher who coached Hawaiian swimmers all the way to the Olympics, beautifully told in simple rhyme. When the children of workers on a 1930s Maui sugar plantation were chased away from playing in the nearby irrigation ditches, local science teacher Soichi Sakamoto had an idea. He offered to take responsibility for the children --- and then he began training them how to swim... The children worked hard under the dedicated Sakamoto's guidance, and their skills improved. They formed a swim club and began to dominate in swimming events around the world. And then one day, the proud Sakamoto saw an impossible dream come true --- Olympic gold!" Tantalizing taste:

"Valley Isle.

Lush terrain.

Migrant workers

cutting cane.

Dawn to dusk

they toil away.

Children left

alone to play.

Melting in the

midday sun,

diving, swimming,

having fun."


Policeman's on his beat.

Children scatter

in the heat."

And something more: Julie Abery explains in the Author's Note: "From his classroom window, a local science teacher named Soichi Sakamoto would watch the children swim [in the murky water of the sugar plantation irrigation ditches]. Sakamoto decided to speak to the owners of the Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company, offering to take responsibility for the children if the company would allow them to keep swimming in the irrigation ditches... Although not a good swimmer himself, he researched swimming strokes and applied his science background to come up with innovative training techniques... Finally, in 1948 Sakamoto's impossible dream came true. .. the Three-Year Swim Club's own Bill Smith took a glorious win in the 400-meter freestyle race- an Olympic record and Olympic gold!"


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