When I woke up this morning I couldn’t bend my right knee without feeling a sharp pain radiating across my entire knee cap. During training the night before I came down on the top of that knee in order to block being thrown. I can already see the blood pooling under the skin at the bottom of that knee. Rolling out of my bunk-bed I am immediately reminded of the serious bone bruise on my left shin as soon as my foot grazes the cold ground. I realize that even a strong breeze on the surface of that shin will cause searing pain. But that’s nothing new, the bruise is already two weeks old but impossible to mend without a break in training.
Thats not an option.
I’m left hoping that my sweat soaked shin pad has dried overnight and I wont have to slide it on still wet and cold with last night’s sweat at Judo this morning. Walking to the bathroom I gingerly try to wake my body up. I have never been hit by a car but I always imagine that this is how it must feel the next day.
Every movement of my body requires conscious effort in order to avoid moving too fast and feeling my muscles groan in protest. I flick on the bathroom light and groan while I try to unscrew the toothpaste cap with my sore and arthritic fingers. I feel like an old woman! I think. As soon as the thought enters my mind I push it away. Screw that, it’s time to buck up! The Olympics are 50 days away according to my daily check and no amount of soreness or nagging injuries can deter me from my goal. I am in Perpignan, France for an elite Olympic training camp with some of the best female judo players in the world. Myself and my other USA Judo teammates have been here for a week and today is our last day.
We flew to Croatia for another week of training with other Olympians who, much like ourselves, are pining after a Judo Olympic gold medal in Rio. From Croatia we head to Budapest for a Grand Prix. It will serve as the USA Judo Olympic Team’s warm up competition before the Games before we direct our attention to strictly training in our final month of preparation.
It may seem like complaining, listing all my aches and pains and injuries. But for me it is a comforting reality of my sport. I know my fingers hurt because I refused to let go of my opponent when she wanted me to, my knee hurts because I refused to be thrown, and my shin hurts because I tried an attack in training that failed. I may hurt the next day but in the end I am proud of this pain because I earned it, the same way I will have earned my Olympic medal by having gone through it all.
Malloy: Bronze isn’t gold
It’s strange to look back now and realize that it was already four years ago that my dream of standing on the Olympic podium was realized, partly. When I set the goal to go to the Olympics one day I never wanted anything but gold. Walking away with a bronze medal was thrilling and I am very proud of my performance but in the same way that living on nothing but water and tofu can leave one feeling unsatisfied, there is still a desperate longing for more.
I have been to Rio before, more times than I can count actually. I fondly remember making it to the final of the World Championships there in 2013. I tragically remember the despair after losing that fight in under thirty seconds, to a Brazilian, in front of a Brazilian crowd (yeah, imagine that for a second).
I often hear sport psychology chatter about filling one’s mind with positive thoughts rather than devastating ones. But I prefer the latter when it comes to getting focused. The pain of coming so close to achieving everything you have worked so hard and sacrificed for only to fail is staggering. There is no one to blame but yourself. I actually fear that feeling.
It’s that fear that propels me forward in every training session and motivates me to push myself just a little bit more when I think i can’t. I will face that Brazilian crowd again on August 8th when I return to the Olympics for the second time, and I may very well be facing a Brazilian again. Am I nervous? Yes. Am I excited? Very. Will I be ready? No doubt. Everything I am going through now will ensure that. But for now, I’m off to practice.