Star Japanese wing Kenki Fukuoka will forgo the opportunity to compete at next year’s Tokyo Olympics in rugby sevens to pursue a medical career as a doctor.
It was announced in an online press conference on Saturday by the Japan Rugby Football Union that the 27-year-old speedster had left the national seven set-up to focus on studying for a medical school entrance exam.
Fukuoka – who became a breakout star for Japan at last year’s World Cup, in which the Brave Blossoms qualified for the quarter-finals for the first time – is set to follow in the footsteps of his father, who is a dentist, and his grandfather, who was a doctor.
According to the Kyodo News agency, the year-long delay of the Olympics caused by the coronavirus pandemic made it too difficult for Fukuoka to focus on his studies alongside his rugby-playing career.
However, he still intends to play for the Panasonic Wild Knights in the next Top League season, which is set to kick-off in January.
“I have been able to accept this kind of fate,” Fukuoka said. “My greatest desire is to live a life without regret. For me, I can see this decision as the cleanest way to do it.”
“I can take the time I would spend at training camp and put it toward studying and preparing for my next career.”
After bagging four tries in sensational fashion in front of home crowds at the 2019 World Cup, Fukuoka retired from test rugby, finishing his international career with 25 tries in 37 tests.
Early indications suggested that Fukuoka would retire from all forms of rugby following the Tokyo Olympics after having already represented Japan’s sevens team at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where his side finished in fourth place.
“I had been preparing (for the Tokyo Olympics) with a desire to win a medal. Although I feel some frustration, I have faith in the remaining members of the squad and I will cheer them on.”
While eager to represent Japan one final time, Fukuoka acknowledged that the COVID-19 outbreak had only strengthened his desire to enter a career in medicine.
“Health care will always be needed, regardless of whatever changes take place in the world,” he said. “Yet, I feel my desire to be needed in that capacity has only grown stronger.”
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