Judoka Yang Yung-wei has made history by becoming the first athlete to win a medal for Taiwan at this year’s World Judo Championships.
Yang, 25, competed in the men’s extra-lightweight (60 kg) event on Thursday, where he won against British judoka Samuel Hall in round 32 and Mongolian competitor Sumiyabazar Enkhtaivan in round 16.
After beating Kazakh judoka Yeldos Smetov in the event’s quarterfinals, Yang lost against Japanese competitor Naohisa Takato during the semifinal round. During their previous match at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Yang also lost against the Japanese judoka and ended up taking home silver.
Yang eventually received a bronze medal at this year’s World Judo Championships after defeating Israeli athlete Yam Wolczak. The Thursday match reportedly marked the Taiwanese athlete’s 10th consecutive medal-winning competition since competing at the 2020 Judo Grand Slam in Germany.
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Born on Sept. 28, 1997, Yang started training in judo after being inspired by his mother. Yang told Taiwanese media that he had always dreamed of winning an Olympic gold medal since starting his judo journey in the third grade.
He became even more motivated to train while he was a teenager, hoping that the sport could help improve his family’s financial situation. His family reportedly decided to take a chance on him, and his brother Jun Ting even gave up his own judo career to help Yang train and achieve his dreams.
“I need to say sorry to my brother because he has sacrificed a lot to accompany me to chase my Olympic dream,” Yang said. “Everyone has something great within, his greatness was his sacrificing spirit.”
After years of training, Yang’s hard work finally paid off when he became the first Taiwanese man to win an Olympic medal in judo following the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. After his historic win, Yang noted that his online fame blew up, having witnessed his Instagram follower count grow from 7,000 followers to almost 400,000 followers.
“When I opened it [Instagram] again, I suddenly noticed my phone was burning and it nearly died [from receiving so many notifications],” Yang told Yahoo! Sports.
“At first, there was no way I could avoid these things [social activities],” he said. “But as Spiderman said: ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ When everyone knows you, it’s your time to take responsibility. I want to promote judo and bring the spirit of the sport to everyone.”
Despite his many successes, Yang remains grounded and humble, saying, “You can be beaten by an athlete who has a lower ranking than you [all] of a sudden, so I don’t care too much about the World No. 1 title.”
“To me, shaking off these titles is the most important thing. I said to myself after winning the silver medal in Tokyo that if I want to go further and achieve higher goals, I have to forget about these, starting from zero,” he continued.
While Yang is the first Taiwanese athlete to win a medal at the 2022 World Judo Championships, he is not the first athlete to win a medal for Taiwan at the sporting event. That title goes to judoka Chou Yu-ping, who won a bronze medal in the women’s extra-lightweight (48 kg) event at the 1987 World Judo Championships in Essen, West Germany.