Chasing a dream
He started judo at the age of 5, his interest in martial arts spurred by the movie The Karate Kid. When my step-father tried to sign up for karate lessons, he was told that Nate was too young. But my step-father knew someone who owned a judo studio and he said to bring Nate by. If nothing else, he'd get to put on a gi and roll around on a mat.
Today, over 20 years later, he is standing - right at this very moment - in a stadium somewhere in Las Vegas about to compete for that illustrious spot on the U.S. Team. His match, literally, is beginning any second (1 p.m. eastern time).
I sit here typing with a knot in my stomach. He has worked so hard for this. He has won a great number of prestigious matches. He has traveled the world more than I can ever hope to. He has had some heartbreaking losses and numerous injuries. He had his morale damaged by a coach who is too arrogant and thought it better to spend his time berating his students vs. building them up. He overcame that and is a stonger, better person today.
Through it all, he has stuck with a sport that is virtually unknown and barely watched here in America. He has sacrificed and fought and pushed his body beyond the limit.
When he was just a boy of about 8, he told me he wanted to go to the Olympics and win a gold medal. I think my reaction not far off of patting him on the head and saying, "That's nice, dear." Who knew that 20 years later, he'd be where he was? Certainly not me, and I don't think my parents did either.
Regardless of what happens today in that stadium in Las Vegas, I will always look at him as an inspiration. He is someone who knew what he wanted at a very early age and went for it. How many of us can say that? I can't.
Good luck today, Nate. Your NJ fan club is here cheering for you.
EDIT: He won his first match!! Yay! He still has a tough fight ahead of him, but he's off to a great start! I'll keep you posted.
UPDATE: Well, he didn't make it, but he fought a great fight. Nate, you'll always be an Olympian in my book.