By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
As a younger judo competitor, Marti Malloy used to dream about the Olympics. And the final moments of that dream always included a trip to the podium, with Malloy accepting a medal for judo excellence.
Last summer, that dream came true.
Representing the United States at the 2012 London Games, Malloy received the bronze medal in the 57-kilogram weight class (about 125 pounds) of women’s judo. The Oak Harbor native became the second American woman in history to win an Olympic judo medal.
What happened in London to the 26-year-old Malloy was, well, dream-like.
Standing on the podium, “I could look to my left and see the whole U.S. judo team leaning over the railing,” Malloy said. “They were waving and screaming and crying. And then when I looked over to my right I could see my coach and my family.
“People might think that moment is for the person on the podium. But the way I look at it, it’s also for all the people who took that journey with me. I felt so lucky. And not just because I won, but because I had all these people behind me the whole way. That moment wasn’t just for me, but for everybody who’d helped me get there.”
For all the elation of her Olympic medal, Malloy admits to some disappointment. She reached the semifinals with the gold medal still in sight, but lost in the late seconds to Romania’s Corina Caprioriu. Malloy gambled with an attacking move, left herself vulnerable and was thrown, costing her the match.
Even months later, she said, “I still think about that almost every day. And when I think about it some days, I’m kind of regretful. I was the best possible version of myself that day with the way I performed. ? But sometimes you do everything perfect, and then you make one little mistake and it can be the difference between gold and bronze.
“I believe that if I’d made it to the final I would’ve been the Olympic champion. And sometimes that sits heavy on me because I know was capable of more. But I’m still very happy with how I did, and I’m very proud of how I got over that loss and was able to reassert myself to fight again,” said Malloy, who defeated 2008 Olympic champion Giulia Zuintavalle of Italy less than two hours later in the bronze-medal match.
Since returning from London, Malloy’s life has been a continuing whirlwind. After a brief break “that went by like the blink of an eye,” she returned to work and training. And work for Malloy is pretty much training, as she is an assistant coach for the San Jose State University judo team.
In recent weeks, she has been traveling the world for judo. In February, she was in France, attending a prestigious training camp. Earlier this month she visited Japan for a similar camp, and later this week she will be in Hawaii on a trip related to her work at San Jose State.
Malloy has not competed since the Olympics, giving a nagging shoulder injury time to heal. But she expects to compete in April at the U.S. Championships, where she is a 10-time medalist, and then at the Pan-American Championships later in April.
The goal, she said, is to be U.S. Olympian once again, this time for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Being in London “was the greatest experience of my life,” Malloy said. “It was a month of celebrating your sport and of being around the other athletes, and it was great just being there. For an athlete, it’s the pinnacle of your career and I enjoyed every minute of it.”