It wasn’t the story book ending Marti Malloy and Yoshihiro Uchida had hoped.
The 96-year-old Uchida is Malloy’s coach and mentor. He made what will probably be his last trip to the Olympics for a chance to see Malloy, 30, win gold for Team USA.
Malloy who won a bronze in London and gold at the Pan Am Games came in as the third seed in Rio’s 57 kilogram weight division.
Unfortunately, she lost to Lien Chen-Ling of Chinese Tapaei in her opening match.
Malloy couldn’t hide the extreme disappointment. Her quest for gold was largely inspired by Uchida.
“If I can win, it will be bigger than just being about me and what I accomplished,” Malloy said to ESPN prior to her match. “Hopefully it will help give a big boost to American judo. And it will be a sign to Mr. Uchida, thanking him for standing behind me all these years.”
Uchida first coached Team USA in judo in 1964 at the Tokyo Olympics. He is credited with building San Jose State’s judo team into a powerhouse.
He was teaching judo as a student at San Jose State in 1941 when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. He would find himself among the Japanese American veterans who fought for the United States against Japan.
“There I was, an American citizen, set on defending my country, while at the same time our lives at home are being torn apart,” Uchida said. “We’re being sent from our homes and farms to the camps. For what? Because of being Japanese. My parents, and so many of my family members …”
After the war he would return to San Jose State to complete his degree and rebuild its judo program. Sentiments from the war lingered.
“They’d just finished fighting the Japanese. They would say, ‘We are not going to learn anything from a Jap instructor!’ Or, ‘Hey, Jap, what are you going to teach me?’ Their ignorance was hard to take.”
You can read more about how Uchida and Malloy’s lives intersected on ESPN.
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