Oak Harbor native Marti Malloy, 30, is ranked fifth in the world and won gold in judo at the 2015 Pan American Championships. She’s set to build on her record. The opening ceremony for the Rio Olympics happens Friday.
Marti Malloy has seen plenty of international styles in judo in all of her years as a competitor, five with the U.S. National team.
But the 2012 bronze medalist and two-time Olympian got up close and personal with those techniques this year in her training leading up to the Olympic Games in Rio.
“French athletes are aggressive and strong, but also technical,” said Malloy, an Oak Harbor native. “The Japanese are not as powerful, but they are swift and their technique is precise. Cuban players are all physically strong and, for the most part, love the same throw.”
It’s a training tactic not seen a lot these days but one that Malloy believes has her better prepared heading to these Games.
“It was something the Olympic staff decided — that if we got our hands on a bunch of different styles we would have better results,” she said. “And while it was a lot of traveling, it certainly has paid off.”
Since January, Malloy has trained in Japan, Cuba, Mexico, Croatia, Budapest, Austria, Montreal and, with U.S. national team coach Jimmy Pedro in Boston.
But all the mat time doesn’t mean a thing without the proper mindset, especially on the world’s biggest stage in the sport.
“The belief that you can win, the unquestionable attitude, that determines the way you fight,” said the 30-year-old Malloy.
“You have to believe with 100 percent of your being that you’re going to win, which is a tough thing to do. People used to tell me all the time, ‘Just believe,’ and I was like, ‘It’s that easy?’”
It got easier after the 2012 Games for Malloy, who stands 5 feet 3, weighs 125 pounds and competes in the 57 kg weight division. Her anxiety was always at a high level during warmups and she questioned some of her ability heading into matches. But she won bronze as an unseeded player then, beating the 2008 Olympic champion to do so. Her confidence has skyrocketed since.
Malloy is ranked fifth in the world by the International Judo Federation and is coming off a gold-medal performance at the 2015 Pan American Championships. Being seeded gives her the opportunity to do some homework on her opponents, something she wasn’t able to do in 2012.
“It’s very important to know the girls in your category,” said Malloy. “Even with all the training in your back pocket.”
Malloy took up judo when she was 6. It was a way for her to have fun, to play with her brothers and to burn off some energy — her dad was in the Navy for 20 years, so Marti’s mom, Merry, had a lot to handle when he was away on duty.
“I think everybody around the Northwest saw the potential in her and saw that she had special talent,” said Jason Harai, who runs Team Ippon Judo Club in Lakewood and saw Malloy compete as a youngster. “The only thing that we thought would really ever hold her back were finances, because it’s expensive to travel and compete.”
But the judo community stepped up, as did Malloy’s family. And, at 15, she made a name for herself when she won the Rendez-Vous tournament in Canada in 2002, beating a former Olympian to claim gold.
Her star continued to rise and, after high school, Malloy moved to California to train at San Jose State University under the now 96-year-old Yoshihiro Uchida, a force in the judo world.
With the SJSU program, internationally recognized as a premier training ground, Malloy got even better.
“I’m little but I have so many people to train with on any given day,” said Malloy, who once beat MMA star Ronda Rousey in a judo match — something she says she doesn’t remember but something Rousey wrote about in her book.
Malloy says there won’t be any MMA in her future, but hopefully another medal. And maybe this one will be a little bit shinier.