Two Team USA judokas will have a special guest, dear friend and distinguished coach in attendance as they seek gold medals in Rio.
Yoshihiro Uchida coached Olympic qualifiers Marti Malloy and Colton Brown at San Jose State University. The 96-year-old coach plans to be in attendance for their matches in Rio. Malloy (57 kg.) is the reigning bronze medalist and competes on Aug. 8, while Brown (90 kg.) will make his Olympic debut Aug. 10.
“He can’t wait to watch us fight,” Malloy said. “I think the biggest thing about that is that someone with that much knowledge and experience is willing to fly down to watch us fight. That means he really believes in us.”
Malloy, 29, trained with Uchida at San Jose State from 2005 to 2015 while working on her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She had another coach who trained her directly but called Uchida her support system.
The biggest lesson she learned from Uchida, who coached Team USA’s first Olympic judo team at the Tokyo Games in 1964, is humility.
“He has so many honors and awards and titles, and you would never know when you meet him,” Malloy said. “You feel like he’s your grandpa. He’s really nice, really soft spoken. He always teaches us it’s not about winning, it’s about being a good person.”
For Brown, the most important lesson he learned from Uchida is patience and the value of an education. Brown, 24, trained under Uchida from 2010 until he graduated from San Jose State in 2015 with a business degree.
“I was going to school, having to go to different countries and do my homework online to meet deadlines,” Brown said. “That was just another challenge. I said, ‘Mr. Uchida, can I please just take a leave of absence from school to focus on judo? I need to make the Olympic team.’ He said, ‘No, because that’s going to make you better.’ If you can make the Olympic team while going to school full time – I was taking 16 units – it’s going to be a lesson later on in life.”
“I think it’s going to help me when matches get tough in the Olympics,” Brown said. “I’ll pull from that.”
In his first year as a full-time athlete, Brown doesn’t miss leaving the library at 7 a.m. during finals week after judo practice the night before. He still talks with Uchida every day.
“He talks to me so much he distracts me from practice,” Brown said. “I need to listen to him, and I know he’s been on this earth longer than anyone else I know. So if he’s telling me something I know there has to be some value behind it.”
Frank Gogola is a student in the Sports Capital Journalism Program at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.