Hannah Martin, from the Jason Morris Judo Center (JMJC) in Glenville, NY which is owned and operated by 4x Olympian, Jason Morris and his wife Teri Takemori has enjoyed a remarkable run since failing to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. Martin who was a 2008 Olympic Alternate in the under 57kg (125.5bs) division and US Open Champion then needed to move up to the under 63kg division (138.8lbs) in 2011.
After moving up to her new weight class, Martin had limited success, going 0-1 at almost every event in the 2011 competition season. Martin traveled to El Salvador, Venezuela, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Samoa only picking up two wins and no medals. Her only medal victory was claiming the 2011 US Open title. Martin soon realized her journey to the 2012 Olympic Games in London was coming to an end when she lost first round in Paris and Hungary, and did not qualify for the 2012 Pan American Championship Team. Martin was ranked No.110 in the world at this time. To qualify for the Olympics athletes need to be ranked in the top 14 for women and top 22 for men. It was then that she decided to step her focus on training and improving to move toward 2016. After a few months of re-focus and lots of judo, Hannah won her first US National Championships in the spring of 2012.
Martin started rising on the international scene in her new weight class in May 2012 at the Miami World Cup where she earned her first international bronze medal at -63kg. From there she would move on to El Salvador to win her first World Cup title and claim the No.1 spot on the USA Rankings Roster. Later that summer she was the only American to travel to Argentina, where she made it the Final, barely losing to the No.1 ranked Brazilian, Katherine Campos. Martin continued to stay persistent and climb the world rankings, at the end of the 2012 competition season, she traveled to Apia, Samoa and picked up another Silver medal. In one year she went from being No.110 in the word to No.28.
2013 started off in Paris, France where Martin went head to head with 2010 World Champion Morgane Ribout from France. The scores were tied, and in the last 30 seconds Martin was penalized for a leg grab. A new rule that was just introduced into the sport that year. "This match helped set the pace for the 2013 competition season," Martin reflected "It made me think, hey maybe I can hang with the best of the best."
After the European tour, Martin traveled down to South America and picked up a Bronze Medal in Uruguay, then won a Silver medal in Argentina, after her two wins she was now at a career-high of No.24 in the world. A few weeks later Martin competed in the US Nationals and won the 63kg title for a second straight year and once again solidifying her No.1 spot in the USA. A week after Nationals, Martin and her NYAC/JMJC teammates Nick Kossor (-60k) and Brad Bolen (-66kg) and NYAC Hall of Famer Jason Morris traveled down to Costa Rica for the Pan American Championships.
This was the first time that Martin qualified for the Pan American Championships, and posted a 3-1 record to take home the bronze medal. This result moved Martin up 5 slots on the world ranking list, putting her at No. 19 in the world. Martin also helped the USA women team capture their first ever team Gold at the Pan American Team Championships winning a tight battle against Brazilian rival Katherine Campos in the semi-finals and then defeating Andrea Gutierrez (Mexico) in the final in under 30 seconds via arm-bar submission.
After returning home from a successful Pan American Championships, Martin received an invite from the International Judo Federation (IJF) to compete at the World Masters in Tyumen, Russia. This event is one of the most prestigious tournaments on the judo world circuit. The top 16 players in each weight category are invited to compete at this event. Martin's consistency in her training regimen on and off the mat led her up to this point, "This was a goal that I set for myself, next year. (2014)." Martin mentioned.
"She's here every day," Coach Morris added, "Seven years, every day equals World Masters." A day before leaving for the World Masters, Martin decided to travel to Ontario to compete at the Ontario Open as a warm up, for the World Masters. Martin went 4-0 to capture the Gold Medal, throwing her opponent with an uchi-mata in the final.
Martin made the journey to Tyumen, but lost first round to Italy's Edwige Gwend. Martin returned home to continue training for the upcoming summer tour In Miami and El Salvador. Martin, did not medal in Miami but she came back strong, taking home a Bronze Medal from El Salvador. After this event Martin was informed that she had officially qualified for her first World Championships.
The rest of the summer was going to be spent training and prepping for the World Championships. At the last second, Martin and Coach Morris decided that it would be a good opportunity to compete at the Ulaanbaatar Grand Prix in Mongolia. Martin was very hesitant to travel such a long distance, and be the only American competing at this event. However, she listened to her coach's advice and made the 14-hour journey to Mongolia, where she picked up her first Grand Prix Bronze medal.
A month later, Martin made her debut at the 2013 World Championships in Rio de Janeiro placing ninth. Martin dominated in her first two matches, then moved on to fight Gevirse Emane (2011 and 2007 World Champion, 2005 World Silver Medalist, and 2012 Olympic Bronze Medalist) from France. The match was a back and forth affair with the score remaining tied before Martin picked up her third shido (penalty) losing 3-2. Emane moved up to eventually win the bronze medal. After her ninth place finish she was now ranked #14 in the world.
Two weeks after the World Championships, she traveled to Rijeka, Croatia to compete at their first Grand Prix event. Martin had a disappointing 7th place finish at this event and decided to sign up to compete in the Uzbekistan Grand Prix to redeem herself, and she did just that. Martin made it all the way to the finals at the Uzbekistan Grand Prix, losing to Mariana Barros from Brazil who she previously beat in the semi-finals in Argentina earlier this year. The silver medal finish put Martin at another career high of No. 11 in the world.
After Tashkent, Martin won Gold's at the Morris Cup and the Quebec Open. Her final tournament of the year was scheduled to be the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. A week before the tournament, Martin injured her lower back during training and was thinking about cancelling her trip. "I already spent the money, and it was my last tournament of the year. Plus I did not want to let myself or my coaches down, so I decided to roll the dice and take a chance." Martin explained.
To her surprise, Martin made it all the way to the semi-finals were she lost to the eventual champion, Kathrin Unterzwurzacher of Austria, placing her in the bronze medal match against Mungunchimeg Baldorg of Mongolia who is ranked No. 13 in the world. "I kept in mind what my coach always says, 'Don't hope- make it happen." Martin explained, "And then I threw her in the first five seconds for waza-ari (half-point) and then scored on her again for the bronze medal.
This was her third Grand Prix Medal this year, and it placed Martin No.10 on the World Ranking List. Even though the 2013 season is over, she is still working hard every single day. Martin rose 100 spots on the world rankings going from #110 to #10 in just under two years.
"I would not be where I am today without the help and support from my parents (Rebekah & Rich), the New York Athletic Club, all of my JMJC teammates and the guidance from my coaches Jason Morris & Teri Takemori," Martin reflected, "I have learned a lot over the past few years, and I think one of the most important lessons I have learned is to listen to my coach, stay positive, and to show up to the dojo everyday with one goal in mind, and that is to be the best version of myself."