The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

JUDO vet­eran Yan Naing Soe will have his heart set on the gold when he rep­re­sents Myan­mar on the Olympic stage for the first time in Rio next month – be­cause his first chance will also be his last.

Yan Naing Soe, now 38, started prac­tis­ing judo at the rel­a­tively ad­vanced age of 21. But in his sev­en­teenyear ca­reer, he’s done more than his share to en­rich the Golden Land’s medal cabi­net, win­ning gold medals at the 27th and 28th South­east Asian Games.

“This Olympic Games in Rio is my first Olympic tour­na­ment, but it will also be my last,” Yan Naing Soe told The Myan­mar Times. “I de­cided to re­tire after the Rio Games be­cause I’m al­ready 38 years old, and be­cause the -100kg cat­e­gory won’t be in­cluded in the up­com­ing South­east Asia Games in Malaysia,” he added, re­fer­ring to the 29th it­er­a­tion of the South­east Asian com­pe­ti­tion, to be held in Kuala Lumpur on Au­gust 1931, 2017.

“But I’m so sat­is­fied that I will have a chance to com­pete in the Olympics be­fore I re­tire. Be­ing an Olympian is the dream of ev­ery ath­lete in the world, and though I can’t hope to win a medal in Brazil, I’ll be try­ing my best,” he said.

Yan Naing Soe is right to tem­per his ex­pec­ta­tions. Over 350 judo ath­letes will com­pete in Rio in 14 weight classes (seven men’s cat­e­gories and seven women’s), for a chance at one of 56 medals. Rus­sia’s judo squad – seven male and four fe­male ath­letes – will also be com­pete, hav­ing been cleared of con­nec­tion to the McLaren Re­port by the In­ter­na­tional Judo Fed­er­a­tion (IJF) on July 26. The in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which un­cov­ered a state-spon­sored dop­ing pro­gram to help Rus­sian ath­letes evade drug-test­ing, has led to the dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion of more than 100 Rus­sian ath­letes from in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions (see re­lated story page 23). The Rus­sian judo team claimed three golds, a sil­ver and a bronze in the judo com­pe­ti­tion at the Lon­don 2012 Games, in­clud­ing in the gold in the -100 cat­e­gory, which was won by Ta­gir Khaibu­laev.

Yan Naing Soe will be en­ter­ing the -100kg, or “half heavy­weight” cat­e­gory, in Rio. He earned the gold medal in the -100kg at the 28th SEA Games in Sin­ga­pore in Au­gust 2015 as part of a Myan­mar judo squad that earned seven medals in to­tal. He also took home the gold in the 100kg class at the 27th SEA Games, hosted in Nay Pyi Taw in 2013, one of Myan­mar’s 11 judo medals.

Yan Naing Soe has been train­ing at the na­tional judo cen­tre in Nay Pyi Taw. He’ll join the rest of Myan­mar’s del­e­ga­tion, which in­cludes seven ath­letes com­pet­ing in five sports, to travel to Rio de Janeiro on Au­gust 1.

“I started train­ing for Rio right after 28th SEA games, and I am sat­is­fied with how it’s gone. I think the Ja­panese and [South] Korean ath­letes will be my big­gest op­po­nents at the Olympics. But how­ever it goes, I want to give it my best in my last in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion,” Yan Naing Soe told The Myan­mar Times, be­fore adding that he was not plan­ning on pur­su­ing a coach­ing ca­reer in re­tire­ment.

Yan Naing Soe pre­vi­ously earned two gold medals, five sil­ver medals and three bronze medals in his in­ter­na­tional judo ca­reer. He also com­peted at the 2002 Asian Games in Bu­san in the 73kg cat­e­gory and 2014 Games in In­cheon in the 100kg cat­e­gory.

Judo was in­tro­duced at the Olympic level at the Tokyo 1964 Games, with com­pe­ti­tions in just four weight classes (-68kg, 80kg, 80kg+, and an ‘open cat­e­gory), while women’s com­pe­ti­tions weren’t added un­til the Barcelona 1992 Games.

Photo: Sup­plied

Yan Naing Soe (blue) throws his op­po­nent at the 27th South­east Asian Games, in Nay Pyi Taw in 2013, where he earned the gold in the 100kg cat­e­gory.

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