I have some pretty exciting news for everyone! In September, the Paralympic Judo world championships were held here in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center. For me this was so amazing, because Lisa, Leroy and so many others were able to come to watch me compete. It felt good having them there, like being on the Lincoln-West High School wrestling mats again. This time the event meant so much more. I was told ahead of time that winning this event would automatically qualify me for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. What other motivation did I need at this point to win?
On the day of competition my coach, Ed Liddie, and me had a game plan: be patient. This was the key to winning my matches, and we stuck to it the entire day. Here in Colorado we have high altitude on our side. The competitors weren’t lasting more than one or two minute before they started gassing. Each of my four matches I won with an Ippon, including my last one against Russia to become a World Champion and secure my place on the Paralympic team for Rio!
After I won, I did my little victory celebration, and when I got back to the center of the mat, the tears started to come. It had just hit me that I am a World Champion, a title that never goes away, and I had just qualified for my second Paralympic Games. I couldn’t fathom what had just happened, but wait, it actually got a little better. The Russian who I had beat was walking back to the center of the mat (this is before the referee had called me the winner) he looks down to fix his gi, then he looks up at me and realizes that I’m crying, and just smiled. He smiled as if I was a close friend, and he was proud of me. At that moment I couldn’t help but to think, I love my sport!
On a slightly different note, I also recently had surgery. I had to have my AC joint repaired in my left shoulder. It is an injury that had happened a little over a year ago. I am only just now able to take care of it because of the tournaments I had to go to throughout the year, however, now that I have qualified for the Games, I have the luxury to back off of training if need be. Rehab is my least favorite part, next to not doing Judo of course, but I know I will come back from this much stronger and ready to compete again. Words cannot express the love I’ve felt the past few months and it just continues to surround me like a suit of armor.
This Christmas I am again organizing a clothing drive for a homeless shelter in Colorado Springs. I have been collecting coats, hats, gloves, sweaters and anything else that can keep people warm this winter. Soon I will go down to the shelter to match people with items in their size. Last year was such a special time of hearing people’s stories and letting them know that I know how it feels to be where they are. I know that what I am doing now is just a small drop in hope’s bucket, but one day I will get to the point where I can help people in big ways, just as you all have done for me.
Thank you for reading, and much love from our Carry On family.