Somersaulting into America

As a Top Japanese Gymnast, My Dad’s Future Was Laid Out for Him. He Opted for Adventure in the U.S. Instead.

Yoshi Hayasaki, father of Erika Hayasaki

The letter that would change my father’s life—and eventually lead to his recent induction into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame—arrived in 1964, at his high school in Nara, Japan. Addressed to Yoshi Hayasaki, it was from an American.

My father, 17 at the time, could not make out a single sentence typed by Eric Hughes, a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. He asked a campus English teacher to translate. “It sounds like he is trying to invite you to come to America,” the teacher told my …

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