Rio 2016 champion hungry for home success

South Korean judoka aiming for gold at 2018 Asian Para Games. 23 Jun 2017
man bites gold medal in celebration

Gwang-Geun Choi successfully defended his judo title at Rio 2016.

ⒸBruna Prado - Getty Images
By EJ Monica Kim | For the IPC

South Korean judoka Gwang-Geun Choi is a double Paralympic champion, but is longing to bring home gold in front of a home crowd after missing out on world gold in 2015.

Choi successfully defended his London 2012 Paralympic title in the men's -100kg at Rio 2016, but admits he struggled with motivation, something he hopes to avoid ahead of next year's Asian Para Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.

“It was a great honour to become a champion at the 2012 Paralympic Games, but at the same time afterwards I was less motivated to concentrate on training,” he said.

After London, Choi struggled with form, missing out at both the 2014 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Judo World Championships and the 2015 World Games.

“In particular, I was upset to miss gold in the final match at the 2015 World Games, held in my country. I realised that I should change my mindset not to allow any single mistakes in a match.”

After successive failures, the pressure was on in 2016 to defend his Paralympic title against home favourite Antonion Tenorio in Rio.

“I assumed that my old rival Uzbekistani judoka Shinrin Sharipov would be my final opponent at the 2016 Paralympic Games, but he wasn’t." he remembers.

“Originally, I’m not a type to care about surroundings much. I just fully focus on my match while competing.

“Before my gold medal match, rather thinking about my unfavourable condition, I just imagined how great it would be to earn victory in the opponent’s home ground.”

Choi had little time to enjoy his Paralympic victory though, as he battled back from a shoulder injury. He returned to training in time for this year's IBSA Judo Asian and Oceanian Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, which he won.

“This year I’m very happy to achieve one of my goals. I finally won over Uzbekistan’s Sharipov [in the men’s +100kg final].”

Now the South Korean's focus is on the 2018 Asian Para Games as he builds up to a third Paralympic title defence.

“As I become older, I need to pay more attention on maintaining my body weight and increasing my level of muscle strength,” he said.

“I would like to challenge my third gold medal of the Asian Para Games next year, as I swept gold at both 2010 and 2014 Games. And then, I’ll head to Tokyo 2020 where I will finish my sporting career.”