Inside the Heart of a Fighter: Nick Delpopolo's Return to Judo Glory and the 2012 London Olympics
A damaged heart results from grim situations that puts ones livelihood as athletes in serious jeopardy. With a career threatening injury derailing his wrestling aspirations the athletic future looked all but over for Nick Delpopolo. Instead, these challenges just added to the young competitor's drive and determination.
Not content with being overthrown by this snag in the road, the injury would result in Nick's return to Judo. Returning to his grappling core under the instruction of Jason Morris, Delpopolo found himself climbing out of the abyss after a three-year absence from the sport.
"It was that injury that pushed me back to Judo and back to live with Jason and Teri in upstate NY. For the first time in my life, when I returned to Judo, I was an underdog."
Placed in an unheralded position now at the age of 16, Nick's heart became fully dedicated to once again reaching the sweet taste of success he once had. His comeback would find him reaching a new plateau in his Judo career.
Working his way from the ground up Delpopolo resurfaced at local Judo competitions, gradually ascending to higher levels by beating multiple former Judo Olympians and national champs along the way. Ultimately, he earned the privilege to compete in the Judo World Championships and Olympic trials.
During the four-year grind period in his ascension to the top Nick's heart would once again be greatly tested by a number of grueling trials arising in many forms. From bad referee decisions, to battling a sickness, to terrible financial woes, what separates Delpopolo from the normal person is his ability to respond in dire moments of crisis. Never losing sight of his ultimate goal during those trying times shows the virtue of a true champion lusting for success no matter what battle he has to go through to get there.
"My struggles this quad has mostly been off the mat. I had a bad patch in 2009 and I just didn't feel right and was dropping matches to players I shouldn't and eventually I went to the doctors and it was revealed that I had been competing with Mono without knowing it.
"Financial troubles have definitely been the biggest hurdle for me. The U.S. government is one of the only governments in the world that does not fund its athletes and my parents, my girlfriend and myself have literally maxed out every credit card we own to get me to the tournaments I needed to go to qualify for London. It seems like my bank account has been in the negatives a lot more than the positives for the last four years!"
The culmination of hard work and dedication has led Delpopolo to achieving the rank as the top Judo competitor in the United States and 16th best in the World in the 73 kg division. Defeating all opposition, "Judo Nick" now finds himself on a destined trip back to a familiar place he once visited as a kid.
As a proud member of the Team USA, Delpopolo will be participating in the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games in London, England. Representing his country proudly and eager to showcase his talents on the grand stage the Olympian goes in with his sights set on cementing a historical moment in not only his career but also for American Judo.
"The Olympics were always my goal and in my heart I have always believed I was going to make it regardless of who was standing across the mat from me," said Depopolo. "I don't get nervous when I compete; I get excited that I get a chance to show everyone what I can do. It's about being the best, doing something no American has ever done and doing it in the deepest weight class. I love this country and everything it represents and it motivates me to realize that the gold medal wouldn't just be mine, it would be America's."
Heart in competition evolves around the ability to muster up the inner strength to overcome any obstacle put in front of you. Looking inside the heart of Delpopolo one will see that he has ignored doubt, is familiar with adversity, and most importantly is someone that holds no uncertainty within himself about the limitless potential he has at becoming the best.
"The difference between me and most people is that I have the courage of my convictions and even if something is the unpopular thing I will do what's right and not go with the crowd. I've known a lot of people that let things happen to them and complain about it to anyone who will listen behind closed doors but never say a peep publicly because they don't have the courage to make waves.
"I want those people to know that although they outnumber me, they can't break me. I want all the people who have been routing against me to know that they are why I made it. I was told I was "all done" and I was going to be a nobody and look at me now. I'm just getting started."