Thursday, 16 May 2013 16:19

Off to Russia: Martin’s Ultimate Goal 2016 Olympics

By Brian Cremo | News

GLENVILLE — In 2006, Hannah Martin had thoughts of quitting judo. This Monday, May 20, she’s headed to the fourth annual World Judo Masters in Tyumen, Russia and ranked No. 1 in the United States in her weight class.

But getting to this point was no accident for the Burnt Hills–Ballston Lake graduate—not like when she started the sport at 8 years old.

"My dad wanted my younger brother, who was 6 years old at the time, to do it," Martin said. "And I said, ‘Hey, what about me? I want to do judo,’ because I felt left out."

After that, she "fell in love with it right away." Martin, 24, did other sports, like volleyball, in high school, but was always more passionate about judo – a sport where she didn’t have to depend on anyone but herself.

Up until her senior year of high school, she was coached by Jim Hrbek at Judo America in Schenectady, which later became Universal Judo. But when Hrbek moved to San Antonio that year, Martin figured she might fully go the college route and drop the sport.

That was until she met four-time Judo Olympian Jason Morris and started training at the Jason Morris Judo Center in Glenville just two weeks before graduation. It was around that time that Martin decided she wanted to do the sport full time.

"Pretty much when I came here I decided it was what I wanted to do," Martin said. "It was a whole new world of the sport – a different level. Everyone has more passion here and it’s very competitive. Jason Morris, he’s a great coach and probably the best in the country. Being coached under that is what makes it exciting. Every day I’m learning something new. That’s because my coach knows a lot and I know very little compared to him."

Martin got a degree at Schenectady County Community College and would go on to take classes at UAlbany, during her training and competitions. But her success has taken her far from the Capital Region many times – to 27 countries to be exact.

In just 2013 alone, she has competed in France, Austria, Uruguay, Argentina and Costa Rica, while maintaining the No. 1 ranking in the 63 kilograms weight class. Martin also won her second straight U.S. National title in what has been a busy year.

In 2011, Martin made the transition from 57 kg to 63 kg. The transition wasn’t an easy one. When she first moved to 64 kg, she was one-and-done in her first eight tournaments.

Now she’s in her second stint ranked No. 1, and it hasn’t been for just two months like the first time. Martin has held that distinction for close to a year now.

In the last two years, she has moved up over 90 spots on the International Judo Federation’s World Ranking List, currently sitting at No. 16 with 496 points.

The literal translation for the Japanese word "judo" is "gentle way." But if Morris could describe Martin’s style on the mat, it’s anything but that. He described it in one word: beast.

Her "sickishly strong" upper body strength is one of her greatest assets, with the "Tai Otoshi" hip toss being one of her go-to moves. Strength is one thing, but what Morris said pushes Martin past others is her attributes, like consistency and passion, that cannot be taught.

"She’s here every day," Morris said. "Seven years every day equals World Masters…She’s a strong girl, determined and has a lot of drive, so that pushes her past others."

If there has been anything that has changed for Martin in the snowballed success of the last two years, it’s her ability to really take in what her Morris has taught her.

"I’ve learned to listen to my coach," Martin said. "Listening to what he has to say instead of doing my own thing."

"Now she’s actually made it," Morris said. "Knowledge is washing over her."

But the fact that she has made it and secured a top 16 ranking heading into Russia doesn’t have her settling down any time soon.

"The further she goes, the further she will understand." Morris, a 1992 Olympic silver medalist, said. "She’s got a long way to go. She’s in a great spot, but nothing is done. You have to keep feeding the beast. It’s a long stretch. Not only does she have to keep it up but she has to keep pushing forward."

"I never feel satisfied," Martin said. "Even when I win a medal, or tournament, I never feel satisfied. I hope I never feel that way because that’s not a good thing. You always want to keep pushing and not settle."

Martin will have to do just that in the next couple years to have a shot at her ultimate goal: winning a medal at the 2016 Olympics.

As she continues stretches of tournaments around the world, she will have to get her ranking in the top 14 and continue racking up medals and points to qualify for the Olympics. In short, she has to keep going, something she has continued to do throughout her whole career thus far.

"The whole journey is a challenge," Martin said. "Life goes on as you’re going through the journey. Life goes on as you’re doing judo… It’s been a crazy seven years."

Martin will be meeting up with three other athletes from the United States on her way to Russia. The World Judo Masters starts Friday, May 24, and will feature 220 participants from 45 countries at the Palace of Sport with $200,000 up for grabs in total prize money.

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