Marti Malloy captured the U.S. Olympic Team’s first medal in judo of the 2012 Olympics today in London, a bronze that tested her tenacity and required that she defeat the world’s No. 2 seed on the way up the podium.
Twice Malloy had to fight through exhausting golden-score overtime rounds on top of the regular five-minute battles. She had to claw back emotionally from anger and frustration after losing in the semi-finals, which would have kept her on track for the silver or gold. And even before all that, Malloy had to face Portugal’s Telma Monteiro across the mats in the first round of her day, among the toughest draws she could have gotten.
“After losing the semi-final, that was hardest thing in the world to come back from – you want to be mad and angry and upset, but my coach, Jimmy Pedro, pulled me aside and said, ‘you came here to win! That was a very a close match that you lost! But, if you really want to win a medal, you’re going to have to forget about it, totally change your mindset, and come back and focus for the bronze!’ And, so, that’s what I did.”
The day for Malloy started on an amazing note. In one of the biggest upsets of judo in the Olympics so far this year, Malloy, 57 KG,, defeated the No. 2 ranked woman in the world, Telma Monteiro who was the flag bearer for the country of Portugal in the opening ceremonies, with a sumi gaeshi for yuko in golden-score overtime.
Malloy (USA Judo Training Site at San Jose State University, San Jose, Calif.) and U.S. Olympic Judo Coach Jimmy Pedro pointed to an evolving trend at the Games: favorites were falling in the early rounds. Malloy threw her momentum behind that trend in defeating Monteiro.
Victory for Malloy came with less than a minute left in her first bout of the day in golden-score overtime after exhausting the regular five-minute round with no score for either fighter.
In her second match of the morning, Malloy quickly dispatched Colombia’s Yadinys Amaris with a decisive ippon seio nage (shoulder throw) for instant victory in just 40 seconds of the clock starting.
In her third match against Russia’s Irina Zabludina, Malloy saw a half-point wazari reduced by the judges to a yuko. With two shidos (penalties) against her, the two were tied and proceeded to golden-score (first score wins) overtime. With no score in overtime, Malloy won on referee decision, or ‘flags.’
That put her into the semi-finals where she faced Corina Caprioriu of Romania. Malloy lost when Caprioriu threw her for ippon with just 7 seconds remaining in the bout. The impact was near devastating – Malloy had been so close to the silver and gold. That’s when her Olympic coach Pedro, grabbed her and told her to regroup. She went on to defeat Italy’s Giulia Quintavalle, the 2008 Olympic Gold medalist, with a textbook inner foot reap, called kouchi gari, for ippon in a repechage round to take the bronze. Within the hour she was interviewing with camera crews and signing autographs outside ExCeL London, one of the massive, multi-sport venues for the Olympics here in London.
Not making it to the podium but winning two matches on perhaps the highest stage for judo in the world, Team USA’s Nick Delpopolo won two rounds in his division, an impressive stand for a first-time Olympian intent on returning.
Delpopolo, 73 KG (Jason Morris Judo, Glenville, N.Y.), dominated his first match, advancing after executing a throw (a variation of harai) for a half-point wazari and then a pin for a second wazari, giving him a full point ippon to end the match in victory against Cheung of Hong Kong .
Delpopolo’s second match, however, was not so predictable. His opponent, Belgium’s Dirk Van Tichelt, was ranked eight on the Olympic roster and was the 2008 Olympic Bronze medalist. Delpopolo defeated Tichlet by countering an uchimata for a yuko that won the match shortly before the clock ran out.
The clock again ran dry in Delpopolo’s third round, this time against Korea’s KC Wang. Golden-score overtime also ended without a score by either fighter. The referees gave the match to Wang on flags. Delpopolo later acknowledged that Wang had controlled the fight.
The thing about the Olympics is that you only face great players. Nick Delpopolo’s next fight in repechage was against Mongolia’s Nyam-Ochir Sanjargal. Delpopolo lost but counted it as a lesson on the road to the Olympics in 2016.