Satos enter hall together
Winning Olympic medals and being an inductee at a sports hall of fame is something most athletes can only dream of. Sharing those experiences with siblings is almost unheard of. But for the Sato family this dream has become a reality.
Gary, Liane, and Eric Sato were all inducted into the Santa Monica College Sports Hall of Fame last Thursday, March 31, during a private ceremony held in the SMC skybox overlooking Corsair Field.
The Sato siblings are known across the country for their volleyball prowess and Olympic medals. But what people may not know is that the Satos all began their great careers here in Santa Monica.
Members of the Sato family were in attendance, joined by members of the community and college as well as SMC President, Dr. Chui L. Tsang who said a few words along with Kinesiology and Athletics Department Chair, Anna Collier.
"This is an honor for the family, but it's also an honor for the college and the community," said Collier, "All three entities can be proud on their own."
While Eric Sato wasn't able to attend, Gary and Liane were presented with Certificate's of Recognition, plus a plaque that will join others like it on the SMC Sports Hall of Fame wall.
They are joining other notable Olympic Medal winners such as retired SMC professor Dr. Tommie Smith, four-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming Lenny Krayzelberg, and Johnny Gray, who won Olympic Bronze in track and field.
"Their introductions are a true testament to what Santa Monica College is all about," said Chip Potts, interim executive director of the SMC Foundation. Potts added, "What they accomplished here at SMC gave them terrific foundations to go on and achieve success in their professions."
The SMC foundation sponsors the SMC Sports Hall of Fame through the Presidents Circle, which was started in 2005.
Both Gary and Liane attended a question and answer period before the ceremony. Students and faculty alike gathered in the art lecture hall to ask questions and hear their stories.
Gary, the eldest of the three, attended SMC in the 70's and 80's en route to receiving a doctorate of chiropractic degree. He played outside hitter at the University of Santa Barbara and went on to coaching, eventually becoming assistant coach for the 1988 Olympic Gold Medal Men's Volleyball team and the 1992 Olympic Bronze Medal team.
For Gary, this honor ranks high on his list. He mentioned how grateful he was to be able to share the honor with not only Liane and Eric, but also the rest of his family, coaches, and teachers.
Liane's career took off at San Diego State University, where she was also a setter. Her coach at the time, Rudy Suwara, said, "I think she may be the best defensive player in the nation."
Her hard work and fierce attitude helped solidify her spot on the 1988 and 1992 USA Olympic Women's Volleyball Teams. She earned Bronze at the 1992 Olympic Games and after the Olympics she continued playing professional beach volleyball.
"Thank you so much for this wonderful honor. Its awesome to be here in Santa Monica," said Liane Sato.
Eric, who was considered by many to be the best defensive specialist in the world during his time with the USA National team, attended SMC during the fall of 1985 and the spring of 1986. He had the opportunity to play in the 1988 and 1992 summer Olympics for the USA Men's National Volleyball team.
While they might be done playing professionally, all three are still making contributions to the sport.
Gary is currently an assistant for the U.S. Men's National Volleyball Team. Liane taught at SMC in the early 2000's and now teaches at Santa Monica High school and serves as both the girl's and boy's volleyball coach, while Eric is head of the Sato Volleyball Academy in San Diego County.