Kayla Harrison has the potential to be the first American to win an Olympic Gold Medal in Judo. Watch this inspiring story of her triumph over tragedy.
This weekend was the Pan American Championships in Montreal, Canada. This tournament marked the end of the 2012 Olympic Qualifications. I went into the tournament prepared to give everything I had and to go out fighting. Qualifying wasn’t completely out of my reach, (difficult, but not impossible). I, however, fell short. I placed 5th for the second year in a row (losing in the semi-finals and then again in for the bronze medal).
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t extremely disappointed, frustrated and in a state of disbelief.
For the past 4 years I’ve dedicated my entire life to Judo. I went to weight training 4 days a week (45-minutes away from my house), was on the mat 4-6 times a week (2 hour sessions), and practically lived at 24 Hour running. My entire day revolved around my training schedule. (Wake up, go to the gym, go home and eat breakfast, lifting practice, go home and eat lunch, take a nap, judo practice, go home and eat dinner, sleep. Repeat the next day). Now that this run is officially over, reality is starting to sink in; I have to grow up and start being a contributing adult to society.
Throughout my 4 year journey, I had a lot of highs and lows emotionally, mentally and physically. There were times where I wanted to pack my bags up and give up. I lost focus on what was important; my goal, my dream. Thanks to my entire support system, I was always guided back in the right direction. I put my heart and soul into my judo because I was given great advice a couple years ago. “Even though it feels like there’s a lot of time left until qualifications, it’s going to come a lot faster than you think. And at the end, you don’t want to have any regrets. You will never live it down if you regret not putting in the time and effort.” (Thank you, Sayaka) Now that the time has come, I don’t have any regrets that were in my control. The only thing I wish I could change, was that I started competing and training internationally a lot sooner. I wish I had the time to develop without the time constraint. But, I’ve come a long way.
I want to thank everyone that’s supported me one way or another. Family, coaches, friends, sponsors, EVERYONE. I am forever in your debt for putting up with all my crap throughout the years. Your help, guidance and support has meant the world to me. I just hope that I’ve done enough to make you proud of my accomplishments (even though I fell short). I worked my tail off not only for myself, but for each and every one of you.
Now the big questions… is my Judo Journey over?
Annie and Mike both took gold at the Senior National Judo Championships this weekend in Dallas. Annie actually fought up a weight and defeated the country’s #1 in that weight. This is her 2nd National title at 52kg. Mike won all his matches by ippon and this is his 4th consecutive gold medal at the nationals. They also both won most outstanding male and female judo player awards of the tournament!
From USA Daily (Official Newsletter of 2011 U.S. Pan American Team):
Highlighted by Kenny Hashimoto’s (Thornton, Colo.) silver medal at
66kg, the U.S. judo team won three medals on Friday (Oct. 28) at the
Pan American Games…
Hashimoto competed in the men’s 66kg division, where he won his
first-round match against Chile by ippon with uchi mata, then came
out the victor in his second match against Ecuador by ippon with a
counter throw. Two shidos to one shido gave Hashimoto a semifinals
victory against Venezuela, before he faced Brazil in the finals, where
he dropped the match by ippon to earn the silver medal.
“I definitely didn’t do as well as I would have liked to. I didn’t have set
expectations coming into the tournament. I just planned to come out
to do my best and see where that got me,” said Hashimoto.
We all know Sayaka as a sweet, supportive, and caring member of the IC community (a phenomenal athlete nonetheless), however, there is another side that we rarely get to see. I wouldn’t want to cross her in a dark alley! Check out her highlight video:
While we are on the topic of Judo, I want to remind everyone that both Annie and Kenny continue to climb the ranks on their quest to the 2012 Olympic Games. But they won’t go too far without our support. Please contribute whatever you can to their travel fund as these great athletes need our help (see Nicki, Sara, or JD for details).
As of April, Annie is currently #22 on the World Ranking List (without doubles).
The world ranking is what will qualify her for the Olympics. For women, only the top 14 athletes in each division, all from different countries, will be chosen to compete in the London Games.
(â€œwithout doublesâ€ â€“ means only 1 athlete from each country is allowed per division. There are repeat countries ahead of her so without those repeats, she’s #22. With doubles, she #37.)
Annie needs our help to make it!Â Her summer tour will include Rio de Janeiro & Sao Paulo, Brazil; Miami, Isla Margarita, and San Salvador.Â Travel costs are at an all time high and unlike most European, Asian, and South American athletes that are subsidized by their countries, our athletes have to find their own way or they can’t compete.
Please donate any amount you can to help our hometown champion! Thank you for your support.
OurÂ girl needsÂ help and the time is now.Â Some of you have already expressed interest in becoming a sponsor, but we want to reiteriterate that any contribution would be greatly appreciated.Â Your donation is 100% tax deductible and it will benefit one of the sweetest and badest girls in the country!Â
Details are available in our office or you can email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.orgÂ for more information.Â
Annie has alsoÂ been updating her life and progress on her blog to share with you all: http://mushi1221.wordpress.com/.
Steven, Maya, and Jess
p.s. below is a letter from her teammate, coach, and fellow IC’er, Sayaka, explaining the importance of your support.
I am writing to you on behalf of the my close friend and teammate, Annie Shiraishi. As most of you already know, Annie is currently training and traveling extensively to make the 2012 London Olympic Team. She most recently competed in her first World Championships in Tokyo, Japan where she went 1-1.Â For the rest of 2010, Annie’s competition schedule is rigorous: she is scheduled to go to Great Britain, Holland, Japan, Dubai and Korea. As a former competitive athlete in the sport of judo, I know firsthand how exhausting it is both physically and mentally to be traveling all over the world. In addition, it is extremely costly to be traveling to all these worldwide destinations.
IC, Annie needs your help. The training and traveling costs that she and her family will incur in the latter part of this year and next year will probably reach close to $50,000. Without the generous support of individuals such as yourself, Annie may not have the opportunity to attend competitions which may be crucial to her making the 2012 Olympic Team.Â
Please help support Annie by contributing to her sponsorship fund!! Your contributions will go directly to Annie and help support her endeavors of becoming an Olympian in the sport of judo.
Thanks so much in advance for your support!
IC 7am Bootcamper
Kenny Hashimoto is another IC athlete en-route to the 2012 Olympic Games.Â If work ethic has anything to do with success, then Kenny is the epitome of “successful.”Â After sustaining a career ending injury just before the 2008 Olympic trials, Kenny has recently climbed back to make the 2010 USA Judo World Team.
Next week, he and Annie will fly to Japan to fight in the World Championships.Â Let’s wish them good luck and a safe journey!
Congrats to our Judo athletes Annie, Kenny, and Michael for amazing results at the U.S. Open in Miami this past Sunday. After some disappointments at the World Cup on Friday, Annie and Kenny both came back to take Bronze medals, beating Irelend, Peru, Venezula,Â and Canada.Â Meanwhile Michael had one of his best performances to date, winning Bronze at the World Cup and Silver at the U.S. Open.
Earlier today,Â Annie took Gold atÂ North Central American Championships, a qualifier for the 2011 Pan American Games!
Thank you Sayaka!