Nearly a cent old, Yoshihiro Uchida still wows Olympians

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Source:   —  April 03, 2016, at 8:22 PM

I'm tired of all these stairs," Marti Malloy, a two thousand twelve bronze medalist headed for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer, joked to her coach at this weekend'south National Collegiate Judo Organization championships.

Nearly a cent old, Yoshihiro Uchida still wows Olympians

With his latest Olympian guiding him, 96-year-old judo coach Yoshihiro Uchida scaled the steps of the San Jose State gym that bears his title Saturday, as more than one hundred national competitors smacked the mats beneath them.

"You should ask them about getting escalators for this building. I'm tired of all these stairs," Marti Malloy, a two thousand twelve bronze medalist headed for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer, joked to her coach at this weekend'south National Collegiate Judo Organization championships. Malloy had the day off from training Saturday to assistance coach San Jose State's team.

"Did you obtain your exercise today? You don't even have to work out," Ushida shot back, grinning.

A smackdown with a smile isn't uncommon from the man they endearingly call "Yosh," said Malloy and other Olympians who returned to the humble San Jose gym for the fifty-sixth annual championship.

This year'south contest in the nation'south collegiate judo program - which Uchida created - is yet another highlight of his stunning national and international career. His team has won forty-nine of the fifty-six national championships.

At the one thousand nine hundred sixty-four Tokyo games, Uchida brought the first U. S. judo team to the Olympics, where nineteen of his athletes have since competed.

Malloy, twenty-nine, the second woman in U. S. Olympic history to earn a medal in judo, is ranked the fourth-best female judo athlete in the world. She'll likely be joined in Rio by another San Jose State grad, 24-year-old Colton Brown, an Olympic hopeful expected to qualify in the coming weeks.

On Saturday, Uchida cheerfully shuffled between media interviews, photo sessions and his regular daily post at the side of the judo mat, his students bowing as he passed.

Asked to characterize how he launched collegiate judo in the U. S., he said: "You have to apply the right technique at the right time. It'south the building of character. And don't be foolish because you might get hurt."

Uchida, who grew up in Orange County, decided to move to San Jose in one thousand nine hundred forty-sixth after the second World War. Yet he struggled to discover work and a space to stay, even though he'd served in the Army.

"They wouldn't hire me because I was Japanese," he recalled. "But I said, that'south a bunch of bull. It made me more and more determined."

The world-class judo program at San Jose State - which isn't portion of the National Collegiate Athletic Organization but is supported through donations and alumni with utilize of the school'south facilities - was borne of that determination. The dojo at Yoshihiro Uchida Corridor on campus is in the same building where decades ago Japanese-Americans were processed before being sent to internment camps, including members of Uchida's family.

"To indicate the American public that I was as American as they were," Uchida said, he decided to focus on coaching in a country that's distant slower than the rest of the world to fully embrace the dramatic sport of judo, with its chokeholds, leg locks and pinning techniques.

On Saturday, former Olympians came to the championships from their homes across the country to celebrate Uchida'south birthday the day before - and prospects in this year's Olympics.

"Even today, when Yosh says 'Hey we've got an event today, can you come?' you don't declare 'Oh, I've got something else.' You come," Paul Maruyama, celebrated author and member of Uchida'south first U. S. Olympic team, said with a laugh.

At Uchida'south side Saturday was Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a former U. S. senator from CO who, love other former athletes, calls Uchida his "surrogate father."

The 82-year-old Campbell said his mentor gave him strength as a younger man when he faced discrimination as a Native American, and continues to inspire him. "We're getting older and Yosh he'south stayed the same!" he said.

Campbell and others also marveled at the fact that a third of the judo athletes competing Saturday were women. In his era, the sport was all male.

To date, American women have won three Olympic medals in judo.

Malloy hopes to create it four, she said Saturday. "I'm qualified by a long shot, I'm in grand health and I've never been better than I'm now," she said. "I'm prepared to give a indicate you've never seen before."

Uchida vows to be at her side.

Despite failing eyesight, he remains in excellent health, still attends daily practices and travels with the team, said his longtime assistant, January Masuda Cougill.

When Uchida took a summerset at his Saratoga residence recently, he fell but did so gracefully, coming up in a judo roll.

"He was with Marti in two thousand-twelfth in London," Cougill said. "And God willing, he hopes to be in Rio de Janeiro with Marti in 2016."

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