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Never Got to Go for Gold

Published: 8/6/2012

Not every Olympic-caliber athlete makes it to the Olympics. For some, injury intervenes and shuts down their chance to compete. For others, it may be financial hardship that prevents them from going to the Olympic Games. But for many athletes, it isn't their bodies or personal circumstances that get in the way – it's politics.

Arguably, politics always plays a part in the Olympic Games, but even so the games go on. But on rare occasions, war or political disputes have caused the games to be compromised or cancelled outright: The 1916 Olympics were cancelled due to World War I... World War II prevented the 1940 and 1944 games from happening... In 1980, many nations boycotted the Summer Olympics in Moscow... In 1984, the Soviet Union and other communist countries returned the snub when the competition moved to Los Angeles.

The 12-year hiatus due to World War II was one of the biggest disappointments of all time for the amateur athletes of the world, and many missed their chance at glory altogether. Today we spotlight one of those would-be Olympians.

 Fumi Seshita Scantlin (Herald Democrat)While still in high school, Fumi Seshita Scantlin prepared to compete as captain of the women's handball team for the 1940 Tokyo Olympics to be held in her native Japan.

In the obituary published in the Herald Democrat of Sherman, Texas, Fumi’s family wrote a mini-biography, explaining that Fumi received a degree in Physical Education from Tokyo University, then taught girls' high school physical education. Four years later, the Japanese Army sought her and a handful of other young professionals to serve as an administrative assistant to a Japanese lieutenant during World War II. She was stationed in Java, Indonesia, a small island in the South Pacific.

Upon returning to Japan, she found that B-29 bombings had destroyed her family's home of many decades and that her parents had escaped harm and had taken refuge in a temple at the time of the attack.

Fumi met Sherman Scantlin, SSgt, USAF, in 1954, married him in 1955 and became a U.S. citizen in 1964. Fumi worked from 1973 to 1986 at the now defunct Levi Strauss Company, in the hemline group, then as a pants presser.

Fumi died June 26 at age 90:

She left this world... to join her parents, sisters and husband in a place without borders, where her beautiful spirit was created in peace and love.

Though Fumi missed the chance to compete in the Olympics, it would seem that her spirit was – and still is – that of an Olympian.

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This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She is the director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers.

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