Source from Chinese article by Chen Ying Ying

Chinese Taipei’s Judo heartthrob, Yang Yung Wei, won the gold medal in the men’s 60kg category at the Hangzhou Asian Games, shedding tears of joy and touching the hearts of Chinese Taipei people. In early 2021, he made his Olympic debut and claimed a gold medal, marking a new milestone in the history of Chinese Taipei Judo. Behind his continuous achievements in Chinese Taipei Judo history lies years of hard work and perseverance, accumulated through tears.

© Jensen Lars Moeller

“I want to win the gold medal, and my goal is an Olympic gold medal!” said Yang Yung Wei, the silver medalist in the men’s 60kg category in Judo at the Tokyo Olympics. As he stepped off the field, wiping away the unstoppable tears with bandaged hands, he faced the interview cameras and choked back his emotions while reiterating his goal. Even as a newcomer to the Olympics, he became the first person in Chinese Taipei Judo history to win an Olympic Judo medal, leaving a profound impression on people.

On the third day after returning to Chinese Taipei, Yang Yung Wei conducted a video interview with “Parenting World.” With a handsome appearance and sincere manner of speaking, he was different from the domineering presence on the field. For him, the most fascinating aspect of Judo is not the close combat but rather how to observe and adjust one’s physical and mental changes in a highly tense competition. “In Judo, losing focus for a moment can result in losing the match. It requires athletes to cultivate self-discipline in their daily lives,” said Yang Yung Wei.

Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, -60 kg, YANG Yung Wei © Sabau Gabriela

Self-discipline has always been Yang Yung Wei’s demand on himself. “Yung Wei’s Judo spirit is much better than his peers,” said Li Qingzhong, his coach at Huali Junior High School in Taichung. Li, a gold medalist in Judo at the Paralympic Games, mentioned that Yang Yung Wei did not come from a privileged background, but he lived a disciplined and well-behaved life. The two of them often participated in coaching seminars together in the past, discussing teaching strategies. Li Qingzhong recalled, “Yung Wei is very considerate. He knows that I have poor eyesight, so he would describe the scenery or tell me who is greeting me at the moment, taking the initiative.”

HSU Shwu-Huey, a training and counseling committee member of the Tokyo Olympic Judo team, shared that on the night of winning the Olympic medal, she received a message from Yang Yung Wei saying, “Although it’s not a gold medal, this moment of inspiration is something we can share together.” It was very heartwarming. Writing every day and having conversations with oneself are the ways Yang Yung Wei nurtures his mental resilience. When he attended the National Chinese Taipei Sport University, he once traveled alone to Japan for three months of training, stepping out of his comfort zone and giving himself the opportunity for introspection. “Because I spent a lot of time alone, I had to take care of every aspect of my life. That’s when you start having conversations with yourself and understanding what your heart desires,” he said.

Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, -60 kg, FINAL TPE YANG vs JPN TAKATO © Sabau Gabriela

Not only does Yang Yung Wei have conversations with himself, but he also writes down his daily observations and feelings in a pocket-sized notebook. This habit began when he was young and was required by his teachers to take diligent classroom notes. “Because I wanted to do everything well, not just writing down the key points the teacher emphasized, but also making my handwriting look beautiful. It was not just about finishing the homework,” he explained. Flipping through the pages, the neat handwriting and highlighted notes are evident, and it is easy to see why Yang Yung Wei is consistently described by friends and family as meticulous.

Yang Yung Wei was introduced to the world of judo through the influence of his mother, Yang Xiu Feng, and his older brother, Yang Jun Ting, who were both judo athletes. “In the third grade of elementary school, I followed them into the judo hall and watched them practice throws. I thought it was really cool and wanted to be like them,” reminisced Yang Yung Wei, his eyes reflecting the innocence and curiosity of his childhood, as if judo possessed a magical allure. From a young age, he disliked the feeling of being complacent and unchallenged.

“From the fourth grade of elementary school, because I always won gold medals, I felt a great sense of happiness and achievement. I didn’t like the feeling of ‘letting go,'” Yang Yung Wei shyly expressed. His love for judo began in the fourth grade of elementary school, and during his three years at Xinmin High School in Taichung, he even achieved a remarkable feat of winning the national secondary school sports competition’s male judo division three times in a row. Xu Shuhui, a witness to Yang Yung Wei’s performance at the national competition, recalls, “He had a strong sense of rhythm and ambition on the mat. He played aggressively, as if he was competing in the Olympics even in junior high school. At that time, some coaches even called him a ‘super junior high school student.'”

However, even this “super junior high school student” had thoughts of giving up. Coach Li Qingzhong candidly admitted that he had high hopes for Yang Yung Wei’s career development and, as a result, significantly increased the intensity of his training. This included arranging challenges against higher-ranked opponents, extending practice hours, and intensifying weight training. On the eve of competitions, Li even required Yang Yung Wei to sleep in the judo hall or at the coach’s house to facilitate intensive training. However, in the seventh grade of junior high school, he struggled to adapt, and one night while staying overnight at the judo hall, Yang Yung Wei couldn’t hold back his emotions.

“He was homesick,” Yang’s mother still vividly remembers. She went to the school and saw her son, who had always been independent and didn’t require much attention from his parents, with teary eyes. Her heart was filled with both sympathy and the need to comfort her child. “You have a competition coming up, so cheer up. Otherwise, how will you catch up if you fall behind?” Yang’s mother said. “In reality, there’s no such thing as being a genius or having innate talent. Yung Wei achieved everything through his own hard work. The teachers gave him a training schedule, and he followed it step by step.”

Ulaanbaatar Grand Slam 2022, -60 kg, FINAL TPE YANG vs JPN NAGAYAMA © Di Feliciantonio Emanuele

Fourteen years of arduous training left its mark on Yang Yung Wei’s “judo ears” (Editor’s note: auricular pseudocyst caused by prolonged impact and friction). Reflecting on the most challenging years of junior high school, Yang Yung Wei described his approach to hardship as nourishment. “By the later years, no matter where I went, I felt that it wouldn’t be too difficult for me because that’s how I trained in junior high school. So no matter how tired or tough it was, I could definitely endure it.” 

As Yang Yung Wei fought on the mat, his parents couldn’t bear to stay on the sidelines. Every two or three days, Yang’s mother, Yang Xiufeng, would ride her motorcycle to Houli Junior High School, where her son was studying, to cheer him on. Yang’s father, on the other hand, collected videos of outstanding international judo athletes and transformed himself into his son’s personal “amateur coach.”

Fans revealed that the entire Yang family would attend almost every competition, and their cheers would reverberate throughout the venue, creating an awe-inspiring atmosphere. Yang’s mother laughed and shared the family’s viewing principles: they would prepare a yellow-capped mineral water bottle as a lucky charm before each match, symbolizing the inevitable gold medal. On the day of the competition, they would even be the first group of spectators, sometimes setting off as early as 4 a.m. They endured those challenging years together.

Paris Grand Slam 2024, ROUND 2 TPE YANG vs FRA SUPERVIELLE, -60 kg © Di Feliciantonio Emanuele

Recalling the days when all three of her sons practiced judo at home, Yang’s mother jokingly said, “How did they practice with each other? They would throw each other on the beds! We broke several beds, and I don’t know how many times I had to replace mine.” Yang Jun Ting quickly defended his brother, saying, “He’s the one who had it worse. We would get punished together when we broke things.”

Yang Jun Ting shared that he and his brother had a strong bond and complementary personalities since childhood. However, when they stepped onto the judo mat, they would not yield to each other. “When we were young, neither of us wanted to lose to the other, so there was a bit of tension, but after it was over, we would go back to being brothers,” Yang Jun Ting explained, unable to find the words to describe the positive competition between siblings. He let out a frustrated yell to clarify that they never had any resentment or envy toward each other.

 “At first, when my brother started winning against me, I felt a bit unwilling, but later on, I realized that it was because my little brother had grown and surpassed me. I felt relieved and proud,” Yang Jun Ting said. He had anticipated his brother’s victory because Yang Yung Wei was diligent in his training. Yang Yung Wei would leave for school 30 to 40 minutes earlier than him, while Yang Jun Ting often arrived just in time. While Yang Jun Ting would try to steal some moments of relaxation during break time, he would be scolded by his little brother.

Paris Grand Slam 2024, -60 kg, BRONZE JPN NAKAMURA vs TPE YANG © Di Feliciantonio Emanuele

During the interview, Yang Jun Ting often highlighted his brother Yang Yung Wei’s personal charm, contrasting it with his own straightforwardness. However, what he didn’t explicitly mention was that as a fellow athlete, he intentionally dropped from the 66-kilogram weight class to the 60-kilogram weight class to become his brother’s exclusive sparring partner before the Olympics. Yang Jun Ting also mentioned in a radio interview that he wasn’t afraid of getting thrown around during practice because it was his little brother, and he didn’t mind. His soft-heartedness could sometimes hinder his own progress.

When Yang Yung Wei spoke about his brother’s companionship, his eyes welled up with tears. “I have some apologies to make to my brother. He definitely has things he wants to do on his own, but my father always said that no matter what, family is the most important. I thank them for putting their own aspirations aside and accompanying me to fulfill my Olympic dreams…” His voice trailed off as tears streamed down his face.

In contrast to the rigorous training hours, Yang Yung Wei emphasized that it was the resilient love of his family that served as his support, enabling him to shine on the Olympic stage. “Now, it’s my turn to repay my family. I want to work even harder to pursue my dreams and improve our family’s quality of life. That’s what I want to do.”