This account focuses on recalling a seemingly insignificant event that briefly
affected the people of two countries, the Philippines and Japan, and the young Japanese female runner who made it happen. Sixty-eight years ago, in 1954, during the Second Asian Games in Manila, Atsuko Nambu did not only win four medals—including the gold in the 100-meter women’s race—she also unwittingly managed to charm a nation still gripped in the throes of agony over the brutal Massacre of Manila wrought by rampaging Japanese soldiers a scant nine years before, in 1945, thereby helping to avert a disaster. For this feat, she was dubbed the “sweetheart” of the Games.
The fame Atsuko gained in helping to save the 1954 Asian Games was short-lived, and by 1960, it was all but forgotten. However, the author, who saw her at the Games, did not forget. More than a decade later, when he came to work in Japan in 1969, he began to search for her. This was cut short by Atsuko’s sudden death in an automobile accident in 1970. Grief-stricken, he abandoned the search for thirty-eight years until in 2008, he chanced upon a clue that led to meeting her mother, her daughter, and some of her friends. The search also sparked a revival of her memory in Japan, even reaching one surprise personage who also remembered her and what she had done. This retelling of all the events is presented in the form of a series of letters written to Atsuko after her death.