On August 10, 2016 I stepped off of the mat at the Olympic Games in Brazil unhappy with my performance. I knew right then and there that I had to make a change if I wanted a different result at the next Olympics in Tokyo. I ultimately decided to step completely outside of my comfort zone and move to the Pedro’s Judo Center in Wakefield, Massachusetts. Before I actually made the decision, I spent numerous nights contemplating the move. To be honest, the only reason the decision was so hard for me was because I knew judo and life as I knew it were going to change; things were no longer going to be fun, it was going to be 100% dedication.
On June 20th, I packed my bags to leave San Jose and made myself a promise to do everything in my power to never feel the way I did after leaving the mat in Rio. I knew it wasn’t going to be fun, but I prepared myself to do whatever it took to achieve success. When I arrived in Boston, the team was preparing for the World Championships at the end of August, and I immediately questioned my decision to move here. Practice was extremely tough, and the coaches (Jimmy and Travis) demanded excellence. The next couple of months were very hard on me mentally and physically. My body wasn’t used to training at this intensity for this duration of time, and that took an even bigger toll on my mind. Although I was adjusting to a new system, I saw major improvements in my judo and more importantly began to see improvements in the way I approached training.
As I was gearing up to compete at the Netherlands Grand Prix in early November, the coaches and I thought it would be a good idea to travel to the Quebec Open to get some quality matches in. In my final match of the day, my foot got caught underneath me while defending a throw and I felt a sharp pain rush through the top of my foot. Initially I thought I just rolled my ankle and tried to walk it off, but I immediately knew that it was more serious than this. I tried to continue fighting on one foot, but Jimmy realized the amount of pain that I was in and pulled me from the match. The next day I went to get an MRI and realized that I tore some major ligaments in my foot and would be off of the mat for 8-10 weeks. A variety of thoughts went through my head, but the biggest one was the amount of opportunities I was going to miss out on over the next two months. I was supposed to travel to Netherlands to compete, fly to Japan with teammate Jack Hatton and Travis Stevens (coach) to train for three weeks, and finally end the year off by competing at the World Masters Championships.
I spent one day on the couch feeling sorry for myself and then realized that I had to change this mindset immediately. I woke up the next morning and went to the gym to talk to my trainer about workouts to do in the meantime. To my surprise, he told me I can still come in every day to do upper-body lifts and work on mobility. I went home and seriously thought about the promise I made myself before moving here. I knew there were going to be “bumps in the road,” but without them, the end result wouldn’t feel as good. I made a commitment to change my diet to decrease inflammation and move as much as possible to speed up the healing process. When I initially went to the doctor, he told me I wouldn’t be able to walk on the foot for at least 7 weeks. I took my first steps exactly 4 weeks after the injury occurred.
I have accepted the fact that I will go through injuries over these next couple of years, but nothing will stop me from achieving my goal. Despite the various bumps and bruises we experience, there’s always something we can do to improve on a daily basis. I took this time off to remotivate myself and mentally prepare for the battle ahead. I’ve used this time wisely and will come back stronger than before.