With key players gone, will Judo succeed in changing the generation?
September 20, 2023 | by cabarettoenennu.com
Can Korean judo’s generational shift pay off at the Hangzhou Asian Games?
South Korean judo won four gold, six silver and three bronze medals at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta-Palembang. Kim Sung-min in the men’s 100+ kg, Kwak Dong-han in the under-90 kg, An Paul in the under-66 kg, and Lee Jung-kyung in the under-48 kg.
They went on to win one silver and two bronze medals at the Tokyo 2020 Games. Cho Gu-ham won a silver medal in the men’s under-100 kilogram category, while Ahn Chang-rim won bronze in the under-73 kilogram category and An Paul in the under-66 kilogram category.
With the departure of these international aces from the sport, a generation change is underway.
After retiring, Kim Sung-min passed the police specialty exam and became a police officer. Ahn Chang-rim retired after the Tokyo Olympics. Cho Gu-ham also retired last December to focus on coaching.
Cho and Kwak did not make the team for the Hangzhou Asian Games.
It’s cataclysmic. With the main players out of the picture, the team was forced to rebuild.
The mainstay of the new team is Anvaul, who is ranked 10th in the world under 66 kilograms. A silver medalist at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, a gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, and a bronze medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, An Baul is the undisputed ace of South Korean judo.
His main specialty is his upkick. The key is whether he can recover from his injury. Anbaul is still recovering from a torn muscle in his left thigh that he tore in training last month. It will be interesting to see if he can shake off the injury and perform at his best in Hangzhou to win gold.
The men’s under-60kg category will also be interesting to watch. Having won bronze at the 2018 Games, Lee will be hoping to change the color of his medal this time around.
Lee is currently the world’s top-ranked athlete in the under-60kg category. She won a bronze medal at the World Championships in May and rose to No. 1 in July.
As of September, Lee is ranked 3rd in the world. The world number one is Ryuju Nagayama. Nagayama will be the favorite to get in Lee’s way at the Hangzhou Asian Games. It will be interesting to see how Lee fares against Nagayama, who has the edge in their head-to-head record.
In the women’s heaviest division, 78kg+, Kim Ha-yoon is ranked fourth in the world in her weight class and is expected to medal at the Games. Kim has been on a roll this year, winning the Portuguese Grand Prix in January and the Paris Grand Slam in February.
Lee Jun-hwan, ranked fifth in the world in the men’s under-81kg category, is another medal favorite. He won gold at the Portuguese Grand Prix in January and then took bronze at the World Championships in May, beating Olympic gold medalist Japan.
Kim Min-jong, ranked 11th in the world in the men’s 100+ kg (unlimited) category, is another medal favorite. Kim won a silver medal at the Grand Slam in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, in June. He can win gold if he can defeat world No. 1 Temur Rahimov (Tajikistan), who will be his main competition at the Asian Games 안전놀이터.
Competing in the women’s under-57kg category, Heo Mimi will be one of the most intriguing athletes at the Games. The Korean-American, a descendant of independence fighter Heo Seok (1857-1920), won her third international title in less than a year last March, jumping to No. 6 in the world.
However, Hermimi will not be competing in an individual event at the Games. Instead, she will compete in the women’s team event, marking her first major international competition.
It will be interesting to see if this tournament marks a resurgence in Korean judo. The sport has been in a deep downturn since the mid-2010s and is looking to make a comeback. After two consecutive no-gold medals at Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020, it will be interesting to see if the sport can rebound ahead of Paris 2024.