USA Judo Warriors prepare to deliver at Grand Masters Championships in Miami

By Jennifer Garcia | Oct. 25, 2012, 10:28 p.m. (ET)
SteveThardySteve Thardy, 68, has five gold medals, one silver medal plus an Ohio State Judo Championship title, but … who’s keeping track?

Thardy, 73 kg, a full time farmer and part time ‘fierce’ brown belt judoka from Florida City, will join over 800 international competitors November 8 – 11 at the Grand Masters World Championship at the Doral Resort & Spa in Miami.

This unique international event will feature fighters over the age of 30, with some, such as Thardy, well past 50 and 60 years of age. But, don’t be fooled - these athletes are lifelong dedicated judokas who are in top form, and eager to face old rivals with time tested ippons, armbars, and throws they’ve perfected over the years.

To prepare for the Masters, Thardy has trained for the past two months, five days a week at Falcon Judo, Miami. “I train just as hard as the young guys,” says Thardy. “They take me seriously like any other competitor.”  And they should. This past May, Thardy took 1st place at the U.S. Open held in Miami, in his weight class and age group.

“I am going to do my best,” says Thardy. “These competitions are good for the sport and they are good for people my age. It is important to be healthy by staying active and competitive. If you are persistent, anyone can do judo – even at my age.”

More than 800 of these top ‘mature’ fighters from around the world, including nearly 80 from France, and more than 60 from Brazil and Russia each, will take part in this unique event.

“Some of the younger ones at this tournament are close to their prime, but we’ve also got fighters who’ve been off the mats for a decade and they’re getting back in shape just for this event,” said Jose Rodriguez, CEO of the U.S. national governing body for the Olympic sport. “They just love judo, many of them were champions at one time and they want more!”

“It is one thing to be in great shape when you’re 40 or 50 years old,” said Rodriguez. “But it’s an entirely different deal to be taking big falls on the mat and jumping up for more. Really, these men and women are amazing specimens.”