Olympic vault champion Yang Hak-seon to miss Rio Games

March 23, 2016

The reigning Olympic vault champion Yang Hak-seon reportedly tore his Achilles tendon during practice and underwent surgery Wednesday. (Yonhap)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — The reigning Olympic vault champion Yang Hak-seon is likely to miss this year’s Rio de Janeiro Summer Games due to an injury, officials have said.

An official from Yang’s Suwon City Hall gymnastics club on late Wednesday night said the 2012 Olympic gold medalist injured his Achilles tendon during a floor practice at the Taeneung National Training Center in Seoul on Tuesday and had surgery the following day.

“His surgery went well, but going to the Olympics seems to be almost impossible,” said the official who asked not to be named. “Yang will focus on rehabilitation.”

Yang was practicing for the first round of the national team selection tournament slated for April 2. The official said that the 23-year-old picked up an “unexpected injury” during a basic exercise routine, not from practicing difficult skills.

“Yang was managing his condition more carefully than he did for the 2012 London Games,” the official said. “He is hurt and feels sadder than anyone else.”

Han Chung-sik, who heads the performance improvement committee at the Korea Gymnastic Association, said that even if Yang recovers from the injury, the gymnast is unlikely to compete at the Rio Games. He added that the national team selection tournament will go on as scheduled.

“The rehab is expected to take three to four months,” Han said. “Even if Yang recovers before the Olympics, he will not have had enough training to compete. He may demonstrate skills in the air, but it will be difficult for him to perform at the Olympics if he can’t land well.”

Yang became the first South Korean gymnast to win an Olympic gold medal in London. He is also the two-time world champion in the vault, taking gold medals in 2011 and 2013.

However, the Gwangju-native has been struggling with injuries in recent years. He settled for silver at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon while dealing with a hamstring injury and withdrew from the Summer Universiade in his home town with the same injury last year.