The 2012 Summer Olympics are less than 100 days away and the team here at INFOtainment News is getting ready. We are profiling some of Team USA’s athletes so you can get a closer look at who’s Going For the Gold!
You may know Nick as the 3rd place finisher in the 2008 Olympic trials, when he described himself as “still a boy without man muscles.” This year, he is a focused and determined man; someone who has tasted success, but “wants it more, wants to excel more.”
We talked with Nick about the sport of judo, his story, and preparations.
To many Americans, judo is a fringe sport often misunderstood with fewer children participants than mainstays like soccer or baseball. Yet, judo maintains a global following and domestically an avid and intense group of players. Judo originated in Japan, where the sport is huge (think hockey in Canada…) Judo is also popular in places like the former Soviet Union (Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan), France, Brazil, and Mongolia. France in particular, Nick has informed us, has arenas filled with tens of thousands of screaming fans, similar to an NBA-sized crowd.
Judo requires participants to fully control the other opponent. Similar to wrestling, judo requires players to throw or slam opponents in a very controlled motion. Other popular moves are pinning the opponent for 25 seconds or submission through a choke or arm lock.
Nick informs us that each match is different and requires a mix of thought out moves and on-the-fly creativity.
Every year, the Olympics bring a cross-section of Americans to light with touching stories of adversity, triumph, and beating the odds. To us, the human side of the Olympics is as important as pure sport, which is why we were touched by Nick’s story.
Nick Delpopolo was born in Serbia and as a baby put into an orphanage in Montenegro. For 21 months, he lived in poverty with several children until the Delpopolo family of New Jersey adopted him. In 2009, his family traveled back to Serbia and found his paternal father. The meeting was awkward, and as Nick described to us during our interview, picture this scenario – a family from the United States, driving up and down the Serbian countryside in a white van looking and asking for the location of his birth father.
Word traveled back to Nick’s birth father and, when they arrived at his home, he emerged from his house with a pitchfork, unsure precisely of what these “out-of-towners” really wanted with him. Nick perceived the scene as the man felt threatened and once the man calmed, Nick decided it was not the right time to disclose his identity to the man, so he remained anonymous and the family left.
It was a mature decision in a difficult situation, which gives insight as to why someone like Nick is able to compete and prepare himself mentally to compete at the Olympic level in a sport that only has a marginal following in the USA. Nick has said that when the Olympics wrap up, he will send photos and videos and make contact with his birth father. But now, his focus is judo.
Getting back to the sport…
The USA has never won Olympic gold in judo. In the judo community, the gold is the holy grail and its first winner will forever be heralded as a legend in the sport. For Nick that means the next 100 days of training, dieting, twice daily workouts, myopic focus, and sacrifice are worth it.
The goal is to peak at the right times; first the Team USA Championships then the Olympic Games. Everyone on Team USA wants to be, “The First.”
We asked Nick about his regimen going into an Olympic match, to which he replied, “the preparation will be the same as other matches.” His secret is to, “Visualize success. Think positive thoughts.” If he is facing someone higher in the ranks, he knows he has to, “Take some chances and go for it. Swing for the fences.”
How will it feel if he wins that first gold and he stands on the podium listening to the Star Spangled Banner? “It will be an honor, a dream come true…”
Looking forward, Nick plans on being an ambassador to the sport of judo hoping to popularize it among Americans and kids. He wants to give back to the sport and show people how much fun it is to play.
For this Olympian, who spends his downtime hanging out with his girlfriend and cats, playing video games, or watching movies, we hope he takes some big swings and connects.
With a man as determined and composed as Nick, we wish him the best of luck on becoming Team USA’s first gold medal winning judoka.
Photos credit Lou DiGesare, www.realjudo.net