Shohei Ono, Olympic judo champ undefeated for 6 years, steps away from competing
Shohei Ono, a two-time Olympic judo champion who went six years between international losses, is leaving competition to pursue a two-year coaching program in England, according to media in his native Japan.
“I spent 10 years as a national team member ... I had the pure desire to walk the high road, and fought thinking as though I was the last samurai,” Ono said, according to a Kyodo News translation. “I take pride in managing to express to the world what Japanese judo is, and winning back-to-back titles at the home Olympics is the most prestigious thing in my life.”
Ono, 31, capped his career by becoming the lone Japanese athlete in judo, a national sport, to win a repeat Olympic title at a home Games in Tokyo (others did so at previous Olympics). He hasn’t competed internationally since.
Some media outlets reported that Ono confirmed in a Tuesday press conference that he is retiring from competition, which was first reported in December.
Other media reported that Ono only said that, in general, judokas do not retire, and though he does not envision competing anytime soon, he could return to the mat.
If Ono sticks to the coaching program for the full two years, he will not compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics. Japan’s Tadahiro Nomura is the lone judoka to win three individual Olympic titles (1996, 2000, 2004).
After his first Olympic title in Rio, Ono went 18 months between international competitions. He went another 17 months between international competitions before the Tokyo Games, according to Judoinside.com.
Ono also won world championships in 2013, 2015 and 2019.
After a December 2014 loss, he went undefeated internationally until a 2021 defeat in the first Olympic team competition in the quarterfinals, according to JudoInside.com. Ono did lose domestically over that stretch.
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