Oak Harbor judo bronze medalist looks for gold in Brazil

By Rich Myhre
Herald Writer

Published: Monday, May 16, 2016, 8:58 p.m.

With one Olympic medal already in hand, Marti Malloy is gearing up to try for another. And if bronze was a great color in 2012, gold would be even better in 2016.
The 29-year-old Malloy, a 2004 graduate of Oak Harbor High School, took up judo when she was 6 years old and has since become one of the best in the world. After winning bronze in the 57-kilogram weight class (about 125 pounds) at the London Olympics four years ago she has continued to excel, including winning gold at an International Judo Federation (IJF) Grand Prix event in January and another at the Pan American Championships in late April.
She also won a bronze at an IJF Grand Slam event in February, giving her three medals in as many major tournaments this year. From this, she has a huge boost of confidence heading into this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Already, Malloy said, “2016 has been an amazing year. I’m knocking on wood right now because I almost don’t want to talk about it, but it’s been so fairy tale-esque for me,” she said.
“I’m feeling so focused and more on point than I’ve maybe been in my whole career. And I know that by being on point like I’ve been most of this year, and bringing that same kind of (approach) to Rio, it means I can bring home the gold. I know I can.”
Four years ago, Malloy began the Olympics as a lower seed (“I think I went in as No. 12 or 11,” she said), but reached the semifinals with three consecutive victories. She lost to Romania’s Corina Caprioriu in the semis, but then rallied in the consolation final to defeat Italy’s Giulia Quintavalle for a bronze medal.
Being at the London Games “was an amazing experience,” Malloy said. “At the time I wasn’t one of the favorites for a medal at all. I was more like one of the people who the top players were going to have to get past on their way to the medals. … But I went there wanting to win (a medal) and I was hoping I could, and then I actually did it which is something I’d dreamed about my whole life.”
For any athlete, being an Olympian is a truly special accomplishment. But by being a medal winner, “people automatically place you in a different category,” she said. “You’re not somebody who just made it there, somebody who just qualified. You were actually good enough to bring home hardware from one of the hardest tournaments on the planet.”
When she returned from London with her medal, “I was kind of in a place of euphoria,” she said. “Normally I spend every day in a constant struggle with being mentally and physically ready to train, and wondering if that’s going to be good enough for me to perform and win like I need to. But when that final event comes and you’re successful, all that angst and anxiety and questioning goes away. It’s suddenly a feeling pure joy and happiness.”
In the fall of 2012, Malloy returned to San Jose, Calif., and to San Jose State University where she had received an undergraduate degree in advertising in 2010, and where she earned a master’s degree in mass communication with an emphasis on new media last December. She is also an assistant coach for the San Jose State judo team, a club team that is one of the best in the country.
But for all her schoolwork and coaching, her primary occupation is athlete. She travels the world for competitions and training, and because she is ranked fourth in the world in her weight class (third in Olympic qualifying, which uses only certain events for its rankings) she is assured a place on the U.S. team bound for Brazil.
Because her weight class “is probably the most average weight for judo women, it’s one of the most contested divisions,” she said. “At every tournament it has the most competitors and no one can ever really predict who’s going to come home with the gold medal at any of our events. They’re all really good.”
As an example, Kaori Matsumoto of Japan was the Olympic champion at 57 kilograms in 2012, but Malloy once beat her in 30 seconds. In fact, she added, “I’m so excited for Rio because there’s no one in my (weight class) that I haven’t already beat.”
Malloy will have one final international competition in Guadalajara, Mexico, later this month, and then she will turn her attention solely to her Olympic preparations which will culminate with her trip to Rio de Janeiro in August.
Thinking back to her return from London in 2012, Malloy says she soon after set a new goal for 2016. When she resumed her training, “I was thinking what I needed to do to get a gold (medal). … I never try to be overly confident, but I do try to believe in my abilities. And I believe whoever wants it more on that day in Rio is going to win it.”
So what would it feel like to win a gold medal?
“I actually ask myself that question every day,” Malloy said. “Especially when I’m hurting or not having the results I want and I ask myself, why am I doing this? What’s the point? Why do I put everything I have into this? And what I’ve realized is … it’s the satisfaction of knowing that you committed the time and sacrificed things for something you enjoy doing.
“It’s the satisfaction you get from seeing that pay off that’s (the reward). It’s knowing that you succeeded because you wanted it. And there’s nothing you can take more pride in than that.”