Once Malloy Competitor, Japanese World Champ Now Key To Her Success

By Ernest Pund | Sept. 04, 2013, 4:48 p.m. (ET)

Marti Malloy with Aiko Sato at the 2013 World Judo Championships in Rio de Janeiro

Aiko Sato of Japan was Marti Malloy’s nemesis.

At the 2011 World Cup in Austria, the referees awarded Sato the match on flags after she and Malloy exhausted the clocks without a score.

The two faced each other again at a Grand Slam in Moscow a few months later. “We were pretty even and then she threw me with sode (sode tsuri komi goshi) for wazari,” said Malloy, who just took silver last week at the World Championships in Rio de Janeiro.

Sato was in Rio at the Worlds, too, but not as a competitor. She accompanied Malloy, who hails from the USA Judo Training Site, San Jose State University Judo/NYAC, as her training partner and a key reason that Malloy gave for her rocketing ascent.

“Aiko’s help has been invaluable,” said Malloy, “She helps me to fight in a way that mimics competition every single day in training and pushes me in a way that only a World Champion can.”

Sato won the World Championship in the 57 kg. division in 2011. Even so, she did not make Japan’s Olympic Team. Kaori Matsumoto got the spot and went on to win the gold medal in London.

It was just before the Olympics, Malloy said, when Sato was on vacation in San Jose, that Malloy asked her one-time rival to help her train, but Sato had a prior commitment to the Japanese Judo Federation. Sato promised “to help me in the future. True to her word, she came back to San Jose for one year to learn English and help our whole team. “

“She is probably the best person that I could be with,” said Malloy. “Some days she will take a hundred falls for me. I don’t know any World Champion who would do that for someone who was once her rival.”

Asked for a few words describing Sato, Marti said, “she is an absolute pleasure to be around. Humble, sweet and always with a smile. I’m proud to call her a very good friend and a huge reason behind my recent successes.”

Granted, Malloy’s zealous ascent began before the World Championships – she won bronze at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. She thanks the San Jose University Judo coaches and SJSU team and USA Judo for the support of its members that allows her to focus more completely on judo and winning.

USA Judo provides financial support to the San Jose State University Judo as one of several USA Judo National Training Sites. USA Judo also provides support to elite athletes, including Malloy, to ensure that they can focus more on their training and competition.  

“My training leading to the Games was very good, and since then I have followed the blueprint that was laid out then - doing my best to be in peak physical condition and to train smarter. I have been working with a bum shoulder since before the Games so our strategy was to reduce risk to my shoulder and strengthen my weak points. Since then, my coach, Shintaro Nakano, and i have been making small but specific changes in all my wazas to make me the most effective fighter as possible.”

And, said Malloy, “ever since the Olympics I have tried to mimic the way I thought, felt and focused on that day. I think of only one match at a time and focus on being absolutely confident and persistent in everything.”

Malloy says she wasn’t all quite there at the World Championships. “I didn’t think that the very best version of myself fought at this event, but i think that believing in myself and being relentless to the last second made up for it.”

Where is Malloy headed from here? “Now I plan to recuperate from an absolutely exhausting training regime building up to the Worlds and dive head on into the master’s program I just started at San Jose State University. But I won’t rest for long as I’ll be competing in the Tokyo Grand Slam at the end of October.”