Paralympic champ Gwang-Geun Choi relieved to sign-off on a high

'Retiring from the sport after winning bronze at Tokyo 2020 as my last competition, there would be no better way to finish my sporting career' 28 Jan 2022
Imagen
Gwang-Geun Choi

Gwang-Geun Choi of Republic of Korea proudly holds the South Korean flag after winning the u100kgs final at the London 2012 Paralympic Games

ⒸGetty Images
By EJ Monica Kim | For the IPC

South Korea’s most decorated judoka Gwang-Geun Choi having signed-off from the sport on a high feels that he is a 'relieved' man. Choi announced his retirement after taking his third Paralympic medal home successfully at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. 

“I felt relieved. Of course, I had been honoured to represent my country for more than 10 years, but at the same time I had had lots of pressure as an ace in the South Korean team,” he said. 

“I am very happy that I was able to leave the scene when I wanted, not when others pushed me to do that. Retiring from the sport after winning bronze at Tokyo 2020 as my last competition, there would be no better way to finish my sporting career.” 

BORN TO BE A FIGTHER 

The-34-years-old suffered ruptures of the anterior cruciate ligament [ACL] and the prosterior cruciate ligament [PCL] in his right knee one month before Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games. 

However, he postponed surgery and flew to Jakarta. 

“At that time, many people suggested me to undergo surgery as soon as possible in order to prepare for Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games,” he recalled. 

“When I heard that it would be almost impossible for me to compete at the 2018 Asian Games, I wanted to be there even more than before,” said the Guangzhou 2010 and Incheon 2014 double gold medallist, who won a silver medal in the men’s 100kg class in Indonesia.

Ⓒ Getty Images
 

The postponement of the 2020 Paralympics eventually allowed him to earn more time for complete recovery following the surgery in November 2018, but he never doubted himself to be fit until the original Games schedule. 

“I always think that everything is possible if I don’t give up. Therefore, I wasn’t frustrated while taking rehabilitation.” 

BEST PARALYMPIC MEMORY

He returned to action in July 2019 after an eight-month rehabilitation period. As he had difficulty running which helped him while in a weight loss process, he decided to move up from under 100kg to over 100kg class ahead of his third edition of the Paralympic Games. 

He claimed a bronze medal in the men’s over 100kg category by defeating Cuba’s Yordani Fernandez Sastre at Tokyo 2020. 

“Actually, I lost to him in the final at the 2021 IBSA Grand Prix [in Warwick, Great Britain] two months before the Paralympics,” he continued. 

“However, I kept telling myself, ‘It would be your last tournament as a Para judoka, so let’s not have any regrets, but just claim a victory’.
 
“I really want to say thanks myself for enduring all hardships. Despite missing a third gold medal, for me, Tokyo 2020 Paralympics was the most memorable moment.” 

This October he began a new chapter of his life by taking an administrative position at an incorporated association of the Korean Sport Olympic Committee [KSOC]. 

“I hope not only to have a good influence on young judokas, but also to support many athletes administration-wise.”