South Korea’s Kim Won-Jin is one of those world-class players who never quite made it to the top, though he clearly has the skills and potential to do it. He’s been competing internationally since 2010 and is now 30 years old. But he is still fighting on and seems to be peaking with his final spot at the Grand Prix in Zagreb.
Kim doesn’t have an Olympic medal but he is a double World medalist. He does have eight IJF World Tour gold medals though. He won his first IJF gold way back in 2013, when he was only 21, his first year as a senior.
There was a period of more than two years when it seemed like he had retired. After failing to win a medal at the 2016 Olympic, Kim took some time off. He didn’t compete at all in 2017 and only returned to competing in November 2018.
Currently, he is not the top Korean in the U60kg. Lee Harim, 25, is ranked No. 13 while Kim is No. 19.
But lest you think Kim is a has-been who refuses to hang up his judogi, it must be pointed out that his last IJF gold was just last year, at the World Masters (an exclusive invitation-only event) where he defeated the World No. 1, Taiwan’s Yang Yung Wei.
He also did well in the recent Zagreb Grand Prix, his first event since the Tokyo Olympics where again he failed to medal. In Zagreb, Kim got silver, losing to Magzhan Shamshadin of Kazakhstan in the final.
It’s a good return to form and it will be interesting to see how Kim does in the IJF circuit going forward.