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Inside the Heart of a Fighter: Nick Delpopolo’s Amazing Journey From Orphan to Oympian

Monta Wiley
09 July 2012
Nick Delpopolo - US Combat Sports

The game of life constructs its own voyage for each individual fighter. Going through a rollercoaster trip of highs and lows it's no surprise how these warrior's hearts remain so strong through the storm as they continue to chase their desired goals.

While one fighter's heart hungers for MMA aspirations and providing a better life for his family, another combatant's heart pumps profusely for the aim of reaching a feat no American athlete has done before him.

When examining the heart of American Judoka Nick Delpopolo it demonstrates the prime example of how a person's consistency and perseverance can take them to the highest pinnacle in combat sports competition.

Throughout his existence Delpopolo has endured serious poundings on many occasions. However, this anguish has manifested an individual capable of withstanding the brunt of any test thrown at him in his destined pursuit to Judo glory.

Clouded in a sea of fragmented memories born in Niksic, Montenergro young Nicholas (birth name Peter Perovic) would be brought into the world with an ill-fated set of circumstances. Emerging with the absence of his biological birth parents Delpopolo would find himself residing in an orphanage alongside a group of lost adolescences during his early life stages.

His dark days in the rundown home wouldn't last long though as he would be soon hit with a big flash of light. Searching for a child to call their own the small orphan would be rescued at the age of two into the loving arms of his adopted parents Dominic and Joyce Delpopolo.

Although finally feeling the great sensation of warmth and affection from great guardian figures, even when reflecting back on his days at the orphanage Nick's heart still bleeds sorrow for the other children that never got the opportunity to experience that great feeling he did.

"I was adopted at age two and had the vaguest of memories about my life in the orphanage that became more vivid when I returned with my parents a few years later to adopt my younger sister Helen," Delpopolo told USCS Reporter Monta Wiley. "I remember going back to the orphanage and I could tell all the kids there hated me because I had been 'chosen' and they were still there.

"Even 15 years later returning to Montenegro as an adult I have the same feeling. There was a man there who was 20 years old like me, and he had been there ever since he was a baby, at the same time that I was there. It was difficult for him to look at me or speak to me because there was this unknown tension between us that our lives could have been swapped and I could have been the boy who never left the orphanage. I felt guilty; I still do. It's very difficult for me to talk about."

Embarking on a new journey, life would dramatically turn for Delpopolo. Now residing in Westfield, New Jersey with his new family Nick would soon be open to a new door of adventure that saw the young child learning many new things, traveling around the world, and even getting the opportunity to attend a very prestigious event that would play a major role in his adult life.

"As a child my Dad brought me to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. I don't know if there is where I caught the Olympic bug because all I remember about the trip was being cold."

Fascinated with these infinite possibilities it wouldn't be long before the heart of Nick Delpopolo would drift toward a favored pastime. Curious and always open minded with vouch approval of his father, Nick would begin his studies in martial arts at five years old. Starting as a Karate student his interest would quickly shift after witnessing the glimpse of bodies being thrown unto the mats in a practice known as Judo.

"I didn't think too much about Karate and after the class we were leaving and there was a Judo class starting. It was so cool, the kids were throwing each other all around and I was like, 'Dad I want to do that!', and before he could even answer me I took my shoes off and joined the class."

Guided under the watchful eye of Sensei Yoshisada Yonezuka the young child's devotion for his newfound hobby was returned in the form of countless tournament victories in a six year time span as spectators, peers, and superiors bear witness to the birth of a star in the making.

Evolving rapidly at a very young age the young judo prodigy hungered for more growth in skill level. Hoping to acquire these needed traits his route would take him to Upstate New York where he would find assistance from Olympic Judo silver medalist Jason Morris. The interaction with his new instructor would prove beneficial as Morris's lessons assisted in Nick's molding into become a better judo competitor.

"I developed very quickly under Jason and won every Junior National and International event that I competed in. I really believe this helped my Judo immensely as without knowing it I was training like an Olympic athlete."

Adding on to his Judo arsenal, Delpopolo would also display an interest in practicing wrestling. Although beginning at the age of eight years old the practice would be his prime focus through his conversion into high school. Finding himself in a Deja Vu situation in his new venture by utilizing judo throws combined with his wrestling skills, it would give Nick a serious edge over all his opponents. This advantage would help in his ascent in the ranks, which once again was rewarded with major success and a new alias on the wrestling mat as "Judo Nick".

A freight train with no stopping point it seemed there was nothing halting Nick Delpopolo. However tragedy would soon befall over him courtesy of a severe injury leaving an unclear future in his athletic career.

"My wrestling career came to an abrupt end after my foot got caught between two Wrestling mats and I tore almost every ligament in my knee. . I rehabbed my knee and found that I could no longer get into the deep knees wrestling stance that is a must. This was one of the hardest moments of my adolescence. I set a goal to get a College Wrestling Scholarship and just like that it was over. I was crushed."

And while the wrestling career may have come to an untimely and unfair conclusion for Delpopolo, his combative sports journey was just about to explode. Check back to US Combat Sports tomorrow for the second half of the Judoka player's amazing tale.

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Last Modified:
09 July 2012

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