Less than 150 days until the Olympic Games in Rio

Less Than 150 DaysIt literally is the final countdown. Most of us have worked our whole lives to get here. As an elite athlete, it takes 200% dedication. Training to be the best in the world is no joke. It’s hard work. You wake up every morning with a purpose, there is always something that needs to be done to make you better- to make you the best. That Is what makes me so motivated. 

I was in Europe, getting ready to compete at a very important Olympic Qualifying competition. I was supposed to head to the Dusseldorf Grand Prix- but a few weeks before at a Training Camp in Paris, I felt a little pain in my knee, and ever since then it did not feel quite right. I was walking around trying to shake it off. My knee felt so unstable, but I tried to ignore it. A few practices before leaving for the Dusseldorf Grand Prix – 40 seconds into the practice I had to stop. In that moment- I knew something was wrong and it had to be fixed immediately. 

I flew to Miami a few days later, got an MRI and had surgery the next day. I was so lucky to get in so fast, considering that there really is not much time until the Olympic Qualification period is over. (It ends May 31st) Dr. Steven Swirsky- is the doctor for USA judo and also for the International Judo Federation so he knew how important it was to get back on my feet as quickly as possible. 

Less Than 150 DaysThanks to my friends 2012 Olympian, Nick Delpopolo and my old teammate Carrie Chandler I was able to spend a week in Florida after my surgery. It was nice to be around people that were helpful and supportive and it was nice doing some PT out in the sun. I would walk to the pool (with my crutches) and do knee extensions and other exercises while I got some sun. Dr. Swirsky told me that I had to get to work right away on strengthening my knee and that is exactly what I did. It was a little painful, but well worth it. When I went to see him a week after Post-op to remove my stiches he said I was way ahead of schedule- and that is exactly what I needed to hear.

I had a lot of time these last few weeks to really focus on recovering. I would wake up and do my physical therapy, go to the gym and lift- and follow my lifting program. Refuel, rest, and go to judo training at night. I wasn’t really allowed to do much judo in the beginning- so my judo workouts just consisted of working on tactical situations and technique. It was hard not to do a full practice but training like this also makes you stronger.

Being injured and sitting on the side lines- really tests your character. These kind of things could easily make or break you. When you face true challenges like this, challenges out of your control-this is when you decide if you want to give up or keep on fighting. When you are injured and you cannot do the work physically – this is when mental preparation and focus really becomes important. Through this whole experience I have learned to become patient with myself, and listen to my body and most importantly to be positive. Thanks to my coach, Jason Morris and my teammates- they have been extremely helpful these last few weeks getting me prepared for essentially the most important tournaments of my life. These last few tournaments decide whether Less Than 150 Daysor not I will be competing in the Olympic Games in Rio!

Being an elite requires your full commitment. You need to sleep, eat, and train with a purpose. I am really excited to jump back into competition and prove to myself that I can be here, that I can compete amongst the best in the world- no matter what injuries or other hardships I’ve had to face.

I am getting ready to leave for the Tblissi Grand Prix, then next weekend I will be competing in the Samsun Grand Prix. I pulled out of the NYAC open team tournament this past weekend so I could fully focus and make sure I am prepared as possible for these events. I wanted to say Congratulations to the Women’s team for winning the competition, two years in a row now! #TeamNYAC

Another Valentines Day in the airport...

newyear1Looking back at the last 4 years of my life, and now thanks to Facebook it gives you the option to view your memories of previous years! Every Valentines Day I am usually competing or at the airport! I am happy to keep this tradition alive! So here I am in the airport in Rome, Italy. Alone (of course)

The athlete life can sometimes be a lonely one. Even though you are on this journey with your teammates, at the end of the day it is an individual sport, and all the work, pressure and mental preparation is really ALL ON YOU. What some people don't realize is how hard some athletes have it- especially the American ones. 

We are already the under dogs in the sport, we do not have a big team filled with Olympic and World level athletes, we do not have the funds and the government support like other countries. And if you are not on the top of the podiums every single weekend it's very unlikely that you will be funded by USA Judo. There is just no money in the sport, and the athletes ( like myself) are found setting up fundraising accounts and charging everything on our credit cards.

Judo is a tough sport and very unforgiving sport. You can travel 24 hours on an airplane for a 5 second match. Some people think I am crazy for staying in this sport without much support, I always tell everyone that this kind of thing "builds your character." 

When you have to work for what you want it really makes your success that much more meaningful.

I have been in Europe about 10 days now, I competed in the Paris Grand Slam and finally after competing in 6 Paris events I finally made it out of the first round. Winning this match in Paris gave me 60 points towards the Olympic Qualifications, and moved me up a few slots on the list. My next match was against the French favorite, Clarisse Agbegnou- it was a tough match and I ended up getting pinned and she ended up winning the whole competition.

After the competition I stayed in Paris for a 3 day training camp. This camp is one of the toughest training camps in the world, almost all the countries stay from the competition to participate- so basically you are doing 6-7 rounds with high quality judo players.

Every training camp always makes you a little bit tougher and you always learn something- this is one of the amazing things about judo. You are constantly learning and trying to advance to even a higher level.

newyear1After the camp I had a day off- so I had a chance to visit Disneyland Paris! It was a little cold outside but being about to be a kid for a day is always nice! I rode space mountain 3x!!

My next stop was the European Open in Rome, Italy. A lot of the athletes from Paris traveled to compete here as well, so this was going to be a tough competition. With that in mind I was fully prepared for a tough draw- and I felt confident and strong from the week of training. Unfortunately I was eliminated in the first round by penalties. (3-2) by a Russian girl who ended up taking 5th at the end of the day. 

It always sucks to sit in the airport the next day, empty handed and alone with your thoughts. 

Nobody told me this was going to be easy, this is why when I win my next medal it's going to be that much sweeter!!

I have 6 days until my next competition in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Happy <3 day!


Hello New Year!

February 1, 2016

newyear1Less than 200 days until the Olympics in Rio! Every time I sit down to reminisce and write a blog post it almost scares me that time is going by THIS FAST! I remember in 2012, thinking, “Wow, this is going to be a long 4 years” Time really does go fast when you are traveling the world, competing, training and doing what you love.

I started off the New Year in Denmark! I flew to Copenhagen, Denmark on December 30th, arrived on the 31st and started off the Danish New Year with my boyfriend and a few of the Danish athletes who are on the National Team. A few days later, I went to Sweden. I was invited to be a guest instructor at the annual Swedish World Training Camp. I got to work with Mark Huizinga, Benoit Campargue, Myriam Roper, Hilde Drexler and the Pacek brothers, (Martin and Robin). It was an amazing experience! The camp had more than 200 participants, and I got to do what I love. I love giving back to the sport, I love teaching and inspiring young and old. It truly is a great feeling to make relationships with other through sport. The Swedish training camp was two days, after the Swedish camp I went back to Denmark to train, for a few days.

newyear1My next stop was the Olympic Training Camp in Mitersil, Austria- this is a 10 day camp where top judoka all around the world come to the mountains in Austria for an intense training camp to get back in shape for the upcoming year. This was my first time in Mittersil, and it is a beautiful place. I stayed with the Danish National team in an apartment, so we got to make our own meals, and sit down and eat all together. I stayed in Austria for a week, with two trainings a day I think I am more than ready to take on the year.

I stayed in Denmark for a few more days. My flight was delayed- so I ended up arriving in USA 10 hours before I had to get on another flight to go to Havana, Cuba for the first competition of the year. It is quite a hassle for us to travel to Cuba. It literally is a 45 min flight from Miami. We had to arrive at the airport 4 hours early to check in, pay for luggage and get our Cuban visas. Despite the airport annoyance I was very excited to compete at the first Grand Prix of the year! I had a really good training camp in Austria, and all through the holidays I trained and stayed in shape so I could come back from the Havana Grand Prix with a nice shiny medal!

newyear1I was eliminated in the first round, losing to a Greek girl with penalties. It was a tight match, and I lost 4-3. In my opinion losing by penalties is one of the worse ways to go out! Most of the time the penalties are based on something that I can control and most of the time I can prevent from happening! But I told myself that I wasn’t going to dwell on my first round loss, this tournament is not going to define the way the rest of the year is going to go! 
This is why I love coming back home. When I am back in my dojo I am able to really work on specific things one on one with my coach- Jason. Sometimes these little fixes go a long way in competition!

This week I am leaving for a 3 week European Tour! This is where MY YEAR begins. First stop will be the Paris Grand Slam, followed by a training camp, then I will be competing in an European Open in Rome, then a quick stop in Denmark for a few days of training and then to the Dusseldorf Grand Prix in Germany followed by a 3 days training camp! I am so ready to get this month started!

The Nomadic life of a judoka!

tyumenI have been out of the country since September 29th! And why?! Well..... I am one of those crazy people that really believe in chasing their dreams! I've come this far, and I am not going to stop until I get what I want. I have been to three competitions so far, and a training camp. My home base while I am overseas is Copenhagen, Denmark! It's where I pretty much live now when I am not in New York! My boyfriend has been kind enough to let me spill out all my clothes, gis and things in his apartment! I am sure he loves the mess! :)

This trip overseas has brought me to Portugal, where I ended up taking 5th place. I just missed the podium and it's bittersweet since I haven't been on the podium all year!! The feeling of winning a medal is contagious, and I think that is why you never see athletes give up! Everyone wants to feel glory, it's an amazing feeling that can last for weeks and weeks! I always feel like I have an extra bounce in my step when I win a medal! And I want that bounce in my step more than ever!

After Portugal, my next competition was in Paris. The Paris Grand Slam is one of the most prestigious competitions on the judo world tour! Unfortunately, I had an early first round exit losing to a girl from Sweden, who I have lost to previously this year! I then spent a week in rainy Paris for one of the hardest training camps in Europe! 
After Paris I flew to Abu Dhabi which is only a 6 hour flight from Paris! I arrived just in time to see my teammates Quentin Cook and Chris Alaynick compete at the Junior World Championships!! It also was nice to be in 95 degree weather compared to the windy, rainy cold weather of Europe! (Denmark is always rainy) 
I was lucky enough to be a tourist for once and visit Abu Dhabi. I also went to Dubai. Dubai has one of the biggest shopping malls and they have one of the largest buildings in the world!! I also went to Ferrari World- I am not really a car person so I had no clue what I was looking at!l BUT I got to ride the fastest tyumenrollercoaster in the world! It goes from 0 to 200 reallll quick!!! It was amazing, and there was no line so we were able to ride it more than once!!!! I also got to spend the day in the sun at WaterWorld! It was a nice little break from all the judo and training! Sometimes you just need to take a little time and enjoy life for a few minutes.

My fun in the sun has to end, and I had to take time to prepare for the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam! I was really looking forward to competing here because last year I had to pull out because I injured my knee the week prior and in 2013 I came home with a bronze medal! 
I drew the same Swedish girl that I had the week previously and ended up losing 2-1 in penalties!

Now I am sitting in the airport waiting for my connecting flight back to Copenhagen... I don't want to come back to NY empty handed! I have 8 more days until I return home. My next competition will be in Mauritius this upcoming weekend. After these disappointing competitions I am hungry and determined to finish on the top!!

So let's do this!









Summer Adventures

tyumen It’s September already, which means in a month or so I am going to be waking up every morning for training freezing cold and wishing that it was still bikini and flip flop weather. It’s crazy to think that next summer I will be potentially preparing myself for the biggest event of my entire life. The Olympic Games. This summer started off a little rocky, I had disappointing results in Budapest, El Salvador and Pan American Games but I did not let the disappointment of the game ruin my motivation to succeed. It just made me more determined than ever before - to train harder. I spent a lot of time away from home this summer and mostly out of the country. I travelled to Copenhagen, Denmark to stay with my boyfriend, Miguel, who is the head coach of the National Danish Team. I then drove to Sweden with him and the Danish Elite team for a world preparation training camp. This training camp was perfect for me, because there was a lot of girls in my weight category to go with. Unfortunately in the middle of the training camp I injured my knee and I was unable to train at 100%. I was so worried that I wasn’t going to be able to compete at the World Championships and almost had a nervous breakdown. Everything was going perfect up until then, my diet, my strength and conditioning and my judo training felt better than ever. But that is life, nothing works out perfectly. I returned back to training the following week and then made my venture to Astana, Kazakhstan to compete in my THIRD world championships! Competing at the highest stage is always exhilarating. I love the excitement of the crowd, I also never feel nervous. Of course there is the anxious nerves that every competitor gets when competing, but at this competition there is really no pressure for me. The spotlight is on all previous World and Olympic Champions, so my only goal is to compete at my best and make it happen.

I drew Nepal first round, and beat her in one of my favorite submissions in ne-waza. I then was up against the third seeded athlete, Yarden Gerbi from Israel, who was 2013 World Champion, and 2014 Silver Medalist at the previous Worlds. I tyumenknew it was going to be a tough match but I was ready for a fight. I was countered for a yuko, and I could not get the score back- so I had an early exit at the Worlds in Astana! As a whole the USA team did not perform so well, Marti Malloy was the only one that made it to the medal rounds and she ended up taking 5th place in the 57kg Category!

After the Worlds, I decided to take a 5 day vacation in Lisbon, Portugal with my boyfriend. My boyfriend is Portuguese and he is from Lisbon- so it all worked out perfectly because he knew exactly where to take me! Spending the day at the beach and not having to worry about working out or going to judo practice actually felt nice. This was the first time in 10 years that I have taken a proper vacation! I don’t know why I waited so long. Vacations are good for the mind, body and spirit! And the tan (of course).

After being out of the country for 4.5 weeks, it feels weird to be back home. Back to my old routine. I literally have wasted no time since I have been home. I have jumped right into training full force. Lifting, two judo practices a day and right now it’s only Wednesday and I am exhausted! But that is the life, if you don’t put the work in, you will not get the results you want!

I have a very busy Fall Competition schedule ahead of me! Starting with a World Cup (Continental Open) in Lisbon, Portugal, followed by the Paris Grand Slam, Paris Training Camp, Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, and I still have 3 or 4 more events after that! It has been a very long year for me and I am more than ready to be standing on top of the podium!


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