USA JUDO's Dartanyon Crockett, Focused and Clear On His Future

By Jennifer Garcia | May 31, 2012, 3:47 p.m. (ET)


May30, 2012-- USA Judo’s Paralympic newcomer, Dartanyon Crockett, 21, has seen more of life than most athletes his age.

Left to Right: Ron Hawthorne, Dartanyon Crockett, Myles Porter

Born with Leber optic atrophy, Crockett lives with a degenerative condition that has stolen much of his vision. The path to elite judo competition would have been difficult enough without this disability - there were no vast opportunities or parental guidance for Crockett at home. At the age of 8, his already unstable family life on the hard-scrabble streets of Cleveland, Ohio, was rocked to its core when his mother passed away. His father battled substance addiction, which left Crockett and his siblings to fend for themselves, emotionally and physically.

None of this, however, stopped Crockett from focusing on his dreams. While in high school Crockett found solace and stability in wrestling. He says: “Wrestling was a huge escape. It became my family and it took me away from the stress at home.”

Crockett credits an ESPN feature, “Carry On,” as the vehicle that ultimately led him to judo. In 2010, USA Judo coaches invited Crockett to train at the US Olympic Training Center (OTC). While there, Crockett quickly impressed coaches with his obvious innate talent for grappling, and his inner core strength – qualities equally necessary for elite judokas.

Ed Liddie, Olympic bronze medalist and USA Judo’s Director of High Performance, can recognize raw talent when he sees it. “I noticed right away he was a natural,” recalls Liddie. “He was a happy-go-lucky kid with his eyes wide open, and very enthusiastic. I think in the long term, the sky is the limit for Dartanyon. He is new to the sport, and as time goes by, he will have his chance to leave his mark.”

Today, Crockett fights in the 90kg division and holds 1st place national titles in both 81kg and 90 kg for the visually impaired. “Combative sports,” says Crockett, “are second nature for me. Judo was a huge change of pace but I’ve made changes fairly quickly and have adapted easily.”

Although legally blind, his visual impairment can be described as a severe near sightedness which renders his opponents on the mat extremely fuzzy and blurred. However, Crockett’s agility and strength bode well in judo, which relies heavily on the ability to time oneself, balance, and grapple.

This summer, Crockett will join teammates at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. He will fight in the 90kg weight class. Of his future in judo, Crockett does not plan to sit on his laurels. In fact, he has his eyes set on both the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.

“This all started as an impossible dream. Having made it to the 2012 Judo Paralympic Team is a huge blessing,” says Crockett. “Ed has shaped me into the athlete I am, and because of him and the coaching staff at OTC, I am now going to London. After these games, I plan to continue in judo all the way through the 2020 Olympics.”

Crockett, who is currently a freshman at Pikes Peak Community College, is majoring in social work. Given the struggles he has lived through -- abject poverty, death of a parent, and substance abuse by a loved one – Crockett’s desire to give back to his community is a priority in his post-judo life.

“All of the social issues I’ve experienced first-hand growing up have led me to this point,” explains Crockett. “I can make a huge change in the lives of others who are struggling with the same issues.”

One thing is certain, Crockett’s laser focus on the 2012 Paralympic Games is sharp and precise: “I want to fight to the best of my ability and leave it all on the mat. I want to go home with no regrets.”

Follow Dartanyon Crockett on Facebook:!/DartanyonCrockettFanPage