S. Korean Olympic judokas Cho Gu-ham, An Ba-ul already eyeing Paris 2024 glory
Updated: 2021-08-25 05:56:55 KST
No gold medals were won but for South Korean judo, Tokyo 2020 was golden nonetheless.
Men's under 100 kilogram runner-up Cho Gu-ham, in particular, earned international praise for showing top class sportmanship following his loss to Japan's Aaron Wolf in the final, lifting the champion's arm up in respect.
"claiming the gold medal was all I'd ever dreamed of, so losing was tough. But Wolf's tears of joy moved me. I could tell how hard he had worked to get to that gold medal moment. Had it been me who won, I probably would've shed tears as well."
For Cho, the loss is simply an appetizer for greater things to come a gold medal in Paris 2024.
The same applies for 2016 Rio silver medalist An Ba-ul of the men's under sixty-six kilos category, who beat Italy's Manuel Lombardo by "ippon" with his signature shoulder throw to win bronze in Tokyo.
"I have a silver and a bronze from the Olympics and a gold medal is all that's left for me to win. I'm going to do my best to take home the top prize in Paris in three years' time."
The two judokas go way back.
They were roommates at the old Taereung National Training Center, where they forged a special bond.
"To know that Gu-ham is in my corner, rooting for me is an amazing feeling. His presence alone eases any fear I might feel heading into a match. He's such a trustworthy guy who I can rely on and I'm very grateful to have him as a teammate."
The duo helped each other through the pandemic a time when holding large, group training sessions without masks on was not possible.
"Things I previously took for granted now seem so far away. I'm so thankful to my training partners and fellow Olympians for helping me along my journey under these extraordinary circumstances. I miss the pre-pandemic days so much. I think Tokyo 2020 enabled us to look back at ourselves and appreciate our surroundings."
Cho and An have their eyes on the next Summer Games, but for them, the martial art they practice is about much more than just Olympic glory.
"I dream of using judo as a vehicle to instill hope and dreams into people. I believe judo can go mainstream that way for everyone to practice as a hobby. In the end, I just want to live a happy life as a respected judoka."
Alongside archery and taekwondo, judo has historically been one of South Korea's strongest bets at winning a medal in the Summer Olympics.
But Cho Gu-ham and An Ba-ul hope that one day the sport may well become something that anyone can enjoy.
Han Seong-woo, Arirang News.