“Because it’s there” George Mallory responding to a journalist
“Great ambition and conquest without contribution is without significance.” Ethan Canin
While tae kwon do and boxing carry with them real possibility of brain damage, and the work ethic of the wrestler is the stuff of legend, the qualification process for judo is a fascinating hell. When we compare the three Olympic martial arts, the grappling arts are empirically more difficult. This is not to take away from the incredible feats performed by Tae Kwon Do and boxing practicioners. If you’ve ever taken a round house kick or a right hook to the jaw and kept moving forward, you are something special. The fact is that neither of these carry with them the same energy expenditure, and the constant threat of joint damage, that grappling sports have. Just ask your friendly neighborhood MMA fighters which they find more tiring if you don’t believe me.
The United States sent five people to the 2012 Olympic Games. Only one had finished their undergraduate degree. It is likely they all carried with them thousands of dollars in debt. While judo finally began paying cash prizes at the highest levels, this money is not a guaranteed salary for a starving athlete. The demanding international competition schedule makes the standard brick and mortar undergraduate education almost impossible. There exists only three high level collegiate judo programs, with only one readily equipped as of this writing to produce Olympic medals.
On the fourth day of competition in London, I called a friend who had competed in the Olympics in the past. This friend, a successful businessman with a doctorate, who would be the first tell you that an appearance at the Olympics could cost you more than you could ever pay back. Yet when I explained how despite knowing how bad a decision it would be to pursue the Olympics again, that I couldn’t help but want to go through all the pain again just for a chance, however small, that I’d make it, he responded in a voice just above a whisper: “Because you’ve seen it.”
This is a story about how I tried to make the Olympic team, and the impact it had on my life. I promise, the story isn’t all gloom. In fact thanks to my family and some very smart friends, I was one of the lucky ones who despite not making it came out ahead. While there are ups and downs to this story, these were some of the best years of my young life.
Ticket to Tokyo Part 1
Ticket to Tokyo Part 2
How to hold a pencil
Don’t trust the Nigerian Mafia
How to eat an artichoke
In Transit Stories Part 1
One Final Push
In Transit Stories Part 2
2011 International Animal Behavior Society
Coming to terms
Signing on the dotted line
One last try
Preparing for London
Ticket to London
Ending an Athletic Career as an Athlete on the Spectrum