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Judo champ disappears after incident at nightclub

‘It’s excruciatingly painful to stay in the sport.’
Oct 21,2009
The national judo team has had its share of ups and downs of late. Judo is a sport that teaches respect and its athletes usually carry themselves accordingly.

However, a high-profile judoka’s run-in with the law has raised questions as to the manner in which the team is managed.

The National Athletics Competition kicked off yesterday in Daejeon and Wang Ki-chun has cut off contact and is said to be staying with one of his relatives. The Gyeonggi team, whom Wang was set to compete for in the event, and the national team has not been able to get in touch with him. With the substitute window having passed, Gyeonggi is unable to replace Wang at this point.

Wang, an Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion in the 73 kilogram (161 pound) division declared his retirement from the sport through an online fan site operated by the judoka on Oct. 18. The announcement comes a day after Wang was questioned by the police for reportedly assaulting a woman at a night club in Yongin, Gyeonggi a day before.

Apologizing for his mistake, the 21-year-old judoka added: “What I feel most sorry about is I don’t see myself competing on the mat anymore. I am giving up for the first time in my life. It’s a culmination of stress and emotions that have built up over time and it’s difficult to stay. It is excruciatingly painful to stay in the sport.”

As one of the most recognized faces in the sport, Wang won his first world championship at the age of 19. The Yongin University junior won his second world title at the 2009 World Judo Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands in August.

As a national team member, Wang and his teammates are put through intense training. The ultimate goal is winning a gold at the Olympics and the world championships, the two top competitions in the sport. An injury leading up to a big match or a split second decision can ruin four years of hard training and preparations.

“It becomes hard for national team members to keep their focus after they put in so much training with the goal of winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Once they achieve that goal or if they fail, it’s often hard for them to redirect their focus and start over again from scratch,” national team manager Jung Hoon said in an interview earlier this year.

In a recent interview with Yonhap, Jung dismissed the idea of Wang retiring from the sport, saying his comments were probably the result of stress rather than a true reflection of Wang’s current state of mind.

By Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]