I stare with awe as I enter The Grand Amway Plaza Hotel with my dad and sister. As my eyes dart in all directions while I take in the hotel’s overwhelming size and grandeur, I laugh at how greatly it differs from the dull and interminable farmland we had driven alongside during our trip to Grand Rapids, MI. Unfortunately, we were not checking into this hotel; we were staying at the cramped Knights Inn located a few minutes away. Instead, we were at the hotel because it was the main tournament site for the 2011 USA JUDO Youth and Scholastic National Championships. My sister and I were there to compete in a judo tournament that day.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Although my sister and I both began judo in 2003, she was the more decorated fighter, having several national championships under her belt. I on the other hand had tremendous local tournament experience but lacked experience in major tournaments. In the months preceding the tournament, I had been debating whether or not to stay with the sport. I felt that I was not really going anywhere with judo. I told my dad how I felt, and he offered me an ultimatum: compete at the tournament and then decide whether or not to stay in judo. I accepted his proposition.
The room where the mats were set up was not as lively as the rest of the hotel. The room’s four white walls, gray cement floor, and fluorescent lighting contributed to its prison-like appearance. Despite the room’s unemotional effect, I myself was overwhelmed with emotion. I felt nervous, excited, anxious, and happy all at the same time. Receiving a medal today would mean the world to me. In addition, because this is a major tournament, getting onto the podium meant obtaining a national rank.
A few minutes before my match, I sprint barefoot across the cool cement floor while listening to Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself”. My heart is racing. As I warm up though, my nervousness begins to fade. Now I stand next to the mat, I jump up and down a couple of times, and I pat my arms and legs, warming myself up for the tiring match which was about to ensue. As I walk onto the mat, I stare at my opponent. He glares at me. I look past the glare though and see through his body language that he is nervous. In response, I walk calmly and display confidence. We bow to each other, the referee say “Hajime!” (this means “begin”), and we start to fight.
Knowing that this may be my very last judo tournament, I want to go out with a bang. After a grueling match, I come out as the victor. My next opponent though is much stronger than I had anticipated. In the end, I lose by a small score. After that loss, it seemed like my chances of getting on the podium were slim. I had eight opponents in my division, and competitors would be eliminated after two losses. Despite this, I remain optimistic and I fight my way up the ranks. Before I know it, I have won the bronze medal.
While receiving my medal on the podium, I came to the realization that I can compete with the best in judo and that it would be a shame if I was to quit now. This tournament not only boosted my confidence as a judo player but it increased my overall self-confidence. To this day, when I am confronted by an obstacle, I try to stay positive, confident, and most of all, determined.
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