You wake up to your alarm, you like to start your day with "Eye of the Tiger". It helps to get you into that fighter mindset. You lay in bed for a few minutes thinking about your day ahead. Breathing in and out, slowly and steady. Trying to control the pace, trying to keep away all the pre-competition nerves and anxiety. You know who you are fighting first round, you know what you have to do, you already made your game plan. You remind yourself that you need to follow the plan. You get up to go to the bathroom- look in the mirror and tell yourself, "You are a champion. Believe in You." You stare at the mirror for awhile, wondering WTF is up with your hair- then go downstairs to the hotel breakfast.
At breakfast, you walk slowly. Making sure that every step you take shows your confidence. You keep your posture, smile at people you know, and sit down and eat, with your teammates. Usually your breakfast consists of some kind of carb, eggs, whatever meat the hotel decides to put out there, juice and coffee. You sip on your coffee, letting the caffeine soak into your veins, and then you pour one more cup and bring it back upstairs to your hotel room.
In your hotel room, you turn on your spotify. You try to play a song that is happy, care- free and will make you want to dance. You dance a little bit as you pack your tournament bag. Remembering to bring the very important essentials, like Red Bull, a Twix Bar, Fruit. Gatorade, Protein Bars and of course Water. You slip your white competition shirt over your head and your favorite Nike Pro Pink Shorts. And then you dance around your room a little more to try to dance off any anxiety and nerves that you might have before you go to the competition. You fix your hair, make sure your hair is tightly piled on top of your head. You splash some water on your face, smack your cheeks a few times, brush your teeth. Put on your USA team, jacket and pants, pink socks and your sneakers and head out of the hotel with your pink headphones comfortably around your neck.
You reach the hotel lobby, sit next to your teammates and chime in on whatever conversation they are having. There is always some kind of random babbling going on, you make a few light-hearted comments and then our team manager comes in and tells us that the bus is here. We pile on the bus, usually with athletes from other countries, a lot of times you are sharing seats with people that you are potentially going to be fighting. You try and get a window seat, settle in, put on your headphones and start messing around with your playlist. You look around, everyone else is doing the same thing, most people are stone-faced- trying to not show any emotion. Some people are nervously chattering. You decide to play candy crush.
Finally the bus pulls into the parking lot, you can see the competition venue and you feel a little flutter in your stomach. "Today is game day. This is what you train for. This is what you love to do" You grab your bag and roll it off into the venue. You select a good song to play while you walk into the venue. You follow the rest of your teammates, as they select a spot on the tatami to settle in. Once the bags are dropped, some of the athletes lay down, resting their heads on top of their gym bag, others take out tape and start taping up their fingers, knees, and ankles. You are fight number five, so you need to start getting ready immediately. Your name is picked for the 5% weigh in, you laugh a little. Your name always seems to get picked every single tournament, (and they always say its RANDOMLY chosen) You are never over the 5% so you grab your credential, strip down to your shorts and t-shirt, weigh in, then go back to getting ready for your fight.
It's important to always warm up properly, get your heart rate up, it helps to keep your nerves down. You start doing uchi-komis, then gripping, then combinations, then some transitions. You even start going live with your partner so you can get the feel of the match. During the warm up, you sneak some looks at your opponent, checking out what she is doing. Seeing if you can see any signs of weakness. You both make eye contact and awkwardly turn away from each other.
It's crazy how time works before you compete. It feels like the longest and fastest day of your life. Everything is happening so fast, but you always feel like you are waiting. Before you know it, your name is called and you grab your water, take a few sips of your red bull, slap your cheeks, your ears and behind your head and walk into the shoot. You see your opponent- she is in front of you, getting her gi checked by the officials, her coach is in her ear, speaking her native tongue.You go through the motions, they make sure your gi fits just right, they check your pants, they check your belt. They make you do a few circles, just to make sure you are wearing the correct name on your back. Your coach rubs your shoulders, and hits your back hard. You start jumping up and down, making sure your body doesn't get cold.
The moment before you fight always feels like a lifetime. You are on deck, you can feel your heart beat faster, your hands get sweaty. This is your fight or flight moment, and you always chose FIGHT. You sway back and forth, you can't stop moving. You want to make sure your mind and body are ready. FINALLY, after what seems like eternity, they call your name. Your coach slaps your back, and makes comments that you can barely hear. You are focused, ready for the fight. You take your first step on the mat, and feel at ease. "This is what you train for." Your name and country is announced, you see your name across the scoreboard and your body and mind knows its time. You hit your face one more time, and take your first bow, before the referee tells you to start, you take a quick look at your opponent. Her face is ready, determined, she wants the same thing as you! She wants to win, but your desire to win is greater!