Travis Stevens Takes Silver At The Rio Olympic Games

Aug. 09, 2016, 11:49 p.m. (ET)

USA Judo Olympian Travis Stevens earns a Silver Medal on Tuesday in the Men’s -81 kg weight class.

It’s a hero’s story for USA Judoka, Travis Stevens. After three Olympic appearances, the saying holds true, the third times’ a charm. After years of dedication and hard work, Stevens gets to finally bring home a well-deserved, Olympic medal.

“It’s hard not to just break down in tears,” says Travis, “Not from losing in the finals, but from what we’ve overcome as a staff and loved ones to get me to this day. This medal is as good as gold.”

Just one year ago, Travis Stevens lay in a hospital bed with MRSA, cellulitis, and a staph infection in his right knee that almost cost him his leg. He was determined to come back and do so in true warrior fashion. In just one year, he recovered from his injury, moved his national rank from #22 to #5, made history in May as the first American male Judoka to win gold at a World Masters event, and now he is an Olympic Silver Medalist for Team USA! 

“I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been in my life. Even at the age of 30, I’m fitter and stronger than I’ve ever been, and I felt it today and it showed today.” says Stevens.

Travis displayed strong ne-waza (groundwork) throughout the tournament; Winning the majority of his matches by ippon (full point) through pin or submission. After surviving a close match against Sweden's Robin Pacek in the Round of 32, Stevens bounced back to dominate his next two matches against Sabirov of Uzbekistan and Ivanov of Bulgaria.

The semi-final match is one for the record books, as Travis Stevens defeats Tchrikishvili of Georgia, the number one ranked athlete in the division. Stevens applied a chokehold with his legs that Tchrikishvili could not escape, forcing him to tap out with 53 seconds left on the clock.

In the final Gold medal match, Stevens came out strong, trying hard to apply a hold, but Khalmurzaev of Russia countered the attack and put Stevens on his back for an ippon to end the match.

Stevens’ silver medal win is a Team USA first in the -81 kg weight class. His medal is the first for a U.S. man in 12 years, with Jimmy Pedro’s (USA Judo Head Coach) bronze medal at the Athens 2004 Games being the last.

“The nice thing in life is, I love seeing people get a victory they really, truly deserve. Travis paid the price, stuck it out for four more years, and made it to the podium. I’m so happy for him.” says Jimmy Pedro. “When I see these kids, how much they put into it, how much they sacrifice. They’re not doing it for money; they’re doing it because it’s a personal mission and they want to do American judo proud. What I’m most proud of, in our team, is we’re like family. Everybody cares about one another; everybody wants each other to win. These guys have been together since 2005. And now they’ve put USA Judo on the map. It’s awesome.”

Next up for Team USA is Colton Brown, who fights Wednesday in -90 kg weight class. Brown, No. 27 in the world, starts the day off against Sudan’s Monier Suliman Iszlam in the elimination round of 32.

Watch all of Team USA’s matches live on NBC LiveStream, which can be found at www.teamusa.org/USA-Judo. The action starts at 9 a.m. EDT.