What Hall of Fame Olympic Champions Tracy Ruiz, Carolyn Waldo, Candy Costie, Michele Cameron, the Josephson twins, Sylvie Frechette and Kristen Babb were to the United States and Canada, the beautiful Mikako Kotani was to Japan.
They all competed against each other, and Mikako was always on the victory stand with them. She was so publicized and idolized in her country that Japanese television crews followed her everywhere. With her athleticism and warm personality, she helped to popularize synchronized swimming in her country. She is a household name and recognized everywhere in Japan.
Kotani studied abroad at Gail Emery's Walnut Creek Aquanuts in California and from 1985-1988. She won gold medals in solo at the Japan, Swiss and Mallorca Opens. At the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, as the first female in Japanese history to carry the flag in the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Games, Mikako won the bronze medal in both the solo and duet events.
She repeated as the duet bronze medalist four years later at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Unlike the World Championship and Olympic gold medal duet teams of the Josephson twins, Waldo and Cameron, Vanderburg and Calkins, Ruiz and Costie - all of whom performed in duet competitions together for most of their careers - Kotani had a different partner for each major competition: Tanaka and Okuno for two Olympic Games and Takayama and Itoh for two World Championships. She still medaled as a silver or bronze winner.
After retirement, she opened a school for synchronized swimming so that every little girl who wanted to participate in synchronized swimming would be able to regardless of finances. She has served on the Japanese Olympic Committee, IOC Athletes Commission, and Association of National Olympic Committees. In 1997, she introduced the Olympic Truce Resolution to the United Nations General Assembly. Today she is a television commentator, interviewer and celebrity.