Yang’s bogeymen

Taiwan’s Olympic silver medalist Yang Yung Wei is the world-ranked No. 1 at -60kg, with just over 1500 points ahead of the No. 2, Japan’s Ryuju Nagayama. He is well ahead of South Korea’s Kim Won-jin who is ranked No. 8 and Japan’s Naohisa Takato, who is ranked No. 26 (he has not competed since winning the Olympic Games in Tokyo).

Yang may rank higher than all of them but Nagayama, Kim and Takato are all players Yang has never beaten.

He has lost to Nagayama three times so far, most recently in the final of the 2022 Ulaanbaatar Grand Slam. Yang also lost to him in the 2019 and 2018 Osaka Grand Slams.

Yang last fought Kim at the 2021 Doha World Masters. He also met and lost to Kim in the 2019 Qingdao World Masters and 2019 Hohhot Grand Prix.

He has fought Takato only once although technically he has lost twice. The one match they actually fought was in the Tokyo Olympics, where Yang lost by penalties. The other time he lost to Takato was due to fusen gachi in the final of the 2020 Dusseldorf Grand Slam.

There is no doubting that Yang is on the upswing of his career. Since the Tokyo Olympics, where he took the silver, he has won two Grand Slams (Abu Dhabi and Antalya) and came very close to winning his third in Ulaanbaatar (where he was stopped in the final by Nagayama, no less).

It will be interesting to see how Yang fares against these three bogeymen in upcoming competitions. Nagayama is actually Japan’s No. 2 behind Takato but he’s been doing extremely well this year, winning gold at both the Paris and Ulaanbaatar Grand Slams.

Kim has fought only once this year, at the Zagreb Grand Prix. There, he made it to the final. Though he lost, it was a very good result for a player whom many had assumed would have retired by now (Kim is 30 years old).

As for Takato, it’s much harder to tell what shape he’s in as he has not competed since the Tokyo Olympics. But he hasn’t retired yet so we should see him at one of the upcoming IJF World Tour events sooner or later.