Paiwan Warrior wins Olympic silver for Taiwan

Taiwan’s Yang Yung-wei (楊勇緯) took the silver medal in Judo’s 60 kilogram category, marking the country’s first medal at the Tokyo Olympics and its first ever Olympic medal for Judo, on the first day of competition, Saturday, July 24.

Japan’s Takato Naohisa won the gold medal, while the bronze was shared by France’s Luka Mkheidze and Kazakhstan’s Yeldos Smetov.

23-year-old Yang, of the Paiwan indigenous people, and from Taichung City, previously won silver medals at the 2019 Asian Pacific Judo Championships held in the United Arab Emirates, the 2019 World Judo Championships in Tokyo, Japan, the 2020 Judo Grand Slam in  Düsseldorf, Germany, and the 2021 Judo World Masters in Doha, Qatar.

While a gold medal would have broken a long streak of silver, and Yang was visibly disappointed at the end of the bout with 28-year-old Takato, Yang’s youth puts gold well within his reach in the future.

By the time Yang reached the podium he had overcome his upset to Takato. After being awarded the silver medal, Yang picked it up and rubbed it on his cheek.

“I wanted to feel it, this is the Olympic medal,” Yang said.

Yang’s achievement drew praise from all quarters in Taiwan with President Tsai Ing-wen taking to social media to say “Congratulations to Yang Yung-wei on your silver medal in judo! You’ve made your fellow Taiwanese proud, & won Team Taiwan’s first medal at Tokyo 2020.”

Taiwan Presidential Office Spokesperson Kolas Yotaka took the opportunity to highlight Taiwan’s plight in the international sporting community where the Taiwanese people are often made to compete under the banner of “Chinese Taipei,” including in the Olympic Games.

“Yang, an Indigenous/Polynesian judo athlete, won his first Olympic silver. You can’t see our national flag or the name of our country because of politics. But we Taiwanese are there,” Yotaka tweeted.

Taichung City Mayor Lu Shiow-yen said that Yang Yung-wei, along with fellow Taichung resident Lin Chen-hao, who achieved 7th place in the women’s judo 48 kilogram weight class, are not only the lights of Taiwan, but also the lights of Taichung.

Golden Melody Award winning singer Abao (Aljenljeng Tjaluvie) praised Yang’s achievement in a Facebook post calling him “the pride of the Paiwan people.”

Yang was born into a judo family. Yang’s mother, Yang Xiufeng, was also a judo competitor, and taught Yang and his three brothers their first moves in the sport.

Taichung City Mayor Lu Show-yen center with Yang Xiufeng, right. Picture: Taichung City Government.
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