Marti Malloy had 90 minutes to regroup, both physically and emotionally, to maintain her Olympic dream of reaching the podium. The Oak Harbor, Wash., native had lost in the semifinals on an ippon by Romania’s Corina Caprioriu with seven seconds left in the bout. She had one more chance to fight her way to the bronze medal.
The first-time Olympian came back with a powerful throw to down Italy’s Giulia Quintavalle and capture the bronze in the women’s judo 57 kg class. Her medal is the second for an American female and the 11th overall in U.S. Olympic judo history.
“After losing the semifinal, it’s the hardest thing in the world to come back,” Malloy said. “You want to be mad and angry and upset, but my coach pulled me aside and said, ‘You came here to win. You lost a close match and if you really want to win you’re going to totally change your mindset and come back and focus on the bronze.’”
Malloy’s path to the podium was one of the toughest of the day as she opened with a match against the No. 2 female in the world – Portugal’s Opening Ceremony flag bearer, Telma Monteiro.
“We were 0-3 against that girl but the matches have gotten closer and closer every time,” U.S. coach Jimmy Pedro said. “She was poised to beat her and getting into her head a little. I let her know that Monteiro was going to feel a ton of pressure if we keep this match close.”
The first match went to overtime in eight minutes and took a lot of energy out of Malloy. However, she rebounded with a quick second match and was able to stay composed as Pedro stayed in her ear. A two-time Olympic bronze medalist, Pedro reminded Malloy about the matches he lost in Atlanta and Athens and how the time spent between a loss and the next bout makes a difference.
Malloy took a 20-minute rest after leaving the mat and then began stretching for her fifth and final match of the day. The 26-year-old said her fitness level allowed her to feel prepared throughout the grueling turnaround. When she felt Quintavalle beginning to falter, Malloy relied on her film study of the Italian to quickly make a move.
“I’ve only trained with the Italian before and never fought her in competition,” Malloy said. “I’ve been a huge fan of hers ever since she won the Olympics in 2008. I study her judo and really look up to her. Knowing that was an advantage for me because I know what she does.”
Malloy is unsure whether she will compete at the 2016 Games in Rio. She said she’s satisfied with her bronze from this competition and wants to shift her focus to becoming a world champion.
“The shock of it still gives me goosebumps,” Malloy said. She quickly added that she may leave her job as a receptionist and enter another field of work. The thought of answering the phone and saying, “Bronze medalist speaking,” left Malloy in stitches.
As for falling short of a chance at the gold medal, Malloy says she will not look back and wonder what could have been had she held on for seven more seconds in the semifinals.
“I feel like I fought my behind off in that match and I think I fought well and did everything right,” Malloy said. “What’s done is done.”
In between Malloy’s bouts, Nick Delpopolo came up one win short of the semifinals in the men’s 73 kg class. His bout with Wang Ki-Chum was scoreless, but the judges awarded the victory to Ki.