The days you are most uncomfortable are the days you learn the most about yourself

f

Almost done with the first month of Year two zero seventeen. I started off the year at a Training Camp in Mittersill, Austria! The European Judo Union hosts this camp every single year, and it’s a great way to get back into the training mentality after the holidays! I was at the camp for 7 days, and we have practice twice a day! This was my second time at the Olympic Training Camp (OTC) in Mittersill, Austria. It is really a beautiful place. It is a hard camp, but when you walk outside and look at the beauty you are surrounded by- you really learn to appreciate the world in a whole new way! I am one of the lucky ones that have gotten the opportunity to travel and see such amazing things- so I really am thankful that I get to do these things. Even though, my body hurts, my fingers are dislocated and sometimes I question my sanity of why I chose to put my body through the pain. But honestly, it is worth it! I really love what I do.

Every trip is always a learning experience. Every time I go to a competition, every time I travel to new places I always learn something new about myself. Through the years, I have learned to become more adaptable, and roll with the punches. My trip to Europe did not go so smoothly this time around. There was a big snow storm in NYC, and I don’t think anybody in the city was prepared for the snow that they were going to get. Our plane was already delayed because of the snow, so we were rushed onto the plane only to sit there on the tarmac for 4 hours because 1. They couldn’t get the cargo doors to shut and then 2.

Cook & Martin Shine in Montreal

Montreal, Quebec - Athletes from the Jason Morris Judo Center (JMJC) enjoyed a stellar weekend at the 40th annual Quebec Open Judo Championships at the Claude-Robillard Sports Complex in Montreal, November 5-6, 2016. Burnt Hills High School Senior, Quentin Cook (18) stole the show claiming his first 66kg Quebec Open senior title going 5-0 on the day. Cook also won a bronze medal the day before in the 66kg under21 division. Cook, who also represents the New York Athletic Club (NYAC) won his final match in dramatic fashion having to overcome a large deficit (waza-ari) as he performed a dazzling throw (ogoshi) to stun the crown and win the title.

f

Photo L to R: Ari Berliner, Josh Paltiel, Alexa Michaelson, Quentin Cook, Pete Stanley, Hannah Martin

Competition Day! This is what you train for!

f

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.

Austria and Estonia. An update from EUROPE!

For the past few years, everything in my life revolved around the 2016 Olympic Team. I went to the gym to get stronger than my opponents did; I trained judo twice a day to improve my technique. I worked to make money for competitions to help me qualify for the Olympic Games. I was training for a big goal; I felt that I trained for a big purpose. Every competition was important; every single win on the world circuit would get me closer and closer to my goal. Now that I have different goals, it is a little difficult for me to keep that same motivation. I have wrote down my goals, they are all mini goals, I have not thought past the 2017 World Championships. It has been a challenge for me to not think about the big picture and to focus on the little things. I am not struggling physically but mentally.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about the next Olympics. Even though I have not set my goals past one year, I have the thoughts of Tokyo running through my mind, and this is where I begin to question myself and have thoughts. Will I be able to put my mind and body through this cycle all over again? It is not just about the physical, but the mental. Am I mentally ready to put myself through this again? Competing and training is a rollercoaster of emotions, some days you wake up and feel like superwoman and then other days you feel like you got ran over by a bus and then some. I went to my first training camp since my knee surgery in Austria about a week ago , and as I went through each training session, pushing myself to my limit, feeling the sweat dripping off my face, feeling the soreness of my muscles. I felt that the easiest part for me was doing randori at the end of the session and just letting my judo instincts kick in and not worry about how sore or tired I was.

It is a challenge, shifting gears and focusing on other aspects of my judo career. There is more to the sport than just the Olympics. I had a competition in Estonia this weekend, my main goal for this competition was to go in with no expectations but just to have fun and enjoy the sport of judo again. I had some good fights, I lost in the quarterfinal, won my repechage match, and then we had a very long break in between the prelims and the finals. 63kg is the last weight category to go at these World Cup events. During the break I started thinking about how this could possibly be my first European Medal on the IJF circuit. (International Judo Federation), I have a bunch of 5th and 7th places at the Grand Prix events in Europe. I started putting extra pressure on myself and not focusing on what my objective was- and that was to have fun!

Forget Yesterday, Today is a NEW Beginning

f

"As an athlete my greatest fear is failure. I sometimes feel like I put myself into a panic because I think of all the time, money, effort, blood, sweat, tears, etc that I have put into this sport and if I come out unsuccessful I feel like I will not be able to live with myself. On top of that, I would feel like I let everyone around me down, my coach, boyfriend, friends and family.

One of my biggest weaknesses as a athlete is my MIND. I overthink everything, and I let the mental part of the game get into my head. I want to live up to not only other peoples' expectations but my very own expectations. I know I am able to do anything that I set my mind to, I have already proven that-" (written May 2012)

....but somewhere along the line I lost myself. I lost my confidence and belief in my own abilities.

Yes, my goal was to represent the USA in Rio at the Olympic Games. Every elite athlete wants to get to the highest stage. Everyone wants to be Olympic Champion. I am super bummed that I did not make it. I think I went through the seven stages of grief. After the Pan Am Championships, when I placed fifth, I guess you could call that the denial part. I knew that I did not do enough to get the points I needed to qualify, but I wanted to believe that it was still possible for me. Then the PAIN and GUILT came along, I flew to Baku a week after the Pan Ams to compete in a Grand Slam. I fought horribly and after I fought that night I sat in my hotel room alone and just cried my eyes out. I was ashamed, and embarrassed- I felt like I lost my self-worth as a human at that point. Then I became ANGRY - I was mad at my coaches, mad at my boyfriend and teammates, I was angry that I had to get surgery twice in a 18 month span. But at the end of the night, I was just mad that I did not try hard enough. I did not do enough. Of course I was Depressed for a few days, I couldn't sleep at night because all I could feel was regret.I would cry in the shower, so nobody could see me. I just felt completely disgusted with myself. I was trying to figure out where it all went wrong, and how I let my dream, my goal, and everything I worked for slip right through my fingers. It's a horrible feeling to fall. But I know it is going to be an even better feeling to get back up and fight again.

This is why I love the title of my blog post, Forget Yesterday, Today is a New Beginning. If I keep living in the past I will never allow myself to grow. I need to take the last 4 years and use it to fuel me. This sport has giving me so much more than victories and defeats. It has taken me all around the world (41 countries to be exact). It has given me friendships and independence. I love being an athlete, it is a life that is hard to explain in words. I guess you can say, being an athlete is very self-gratifying. You push your mind and body past the physical limitations, and the end result is always worth it. That is why you see so many athletes crying on the podium. There is so much grit, and tough obstacles you have to face, and when you come out on top. It is an emotional and amazing feeling.

So this is my new beginning. I am going to start fresh, and I am really excited to do so. Which is why I decided to start this blog. I almost find it therapeutic to take the time to "blog." I'm not sure if anyone actually reads my thoughts, or even cares what I put down here. But I personally find that it helps when you write down what is going on, so you can sit back and reflect- and maybe I can help or motivate the few that are taking the time to read my babbles.

It has been a really long time since I haven't had to "train" for anything. The last few months have been extremely stressful. I tore my meniscus in Paris in February, got immediate surgery- worked my ass off to get back into fighting shape in 4 weeks. Competed in Georgia and Turkey. Then I had to start preparing for the biggest competition of my judo career, basically the PanAms were going to either "make me or break me"- and we all know the end result there. I flew to Baku and then competed in Almaty- then spent a week in Denmark with my boyfriend. Now I am back in NY- and all I have to do is train. Train with no pressure. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders because now there is nothing to lose. When I go to the gym, I am training for me. I am training because I want to be stronger, I want to be fitter. (and I also want to look good in a bikini) HELLO! Its summertime!

I've hit the reset button and have set new goals for myself.

This is going to be fun!!!!

Twitter Bubbles

Twitter response: "Bad Authentication data."