You can read my acceptance speech below. To see what it was like to be there, check out the evrybit below.
There is a level of arrogance bordering on insanity to being a world champion.
You have to believe, deep in your heart, that you are better than everyone in the world.
There's also a level of sacrifice bordering on craziness. You give up time with your family - my first baby took her first steps when I was thousands of miles away, winning the Panamerican Games. You ruin your body - I've had so many surgeries, my knees look like I was attacked by a midget with a chain saw.
It takes a level of obsession. For years, when I opened my eyes in the morning, my first thought was "What can I do to win?"
It is a shared craziness and shared sacrifice. No one does it alone. You get to this level because some people, somewhere, cared very deeply about you winning.
Never assume just because you don't see kids parents at an event that they don't care. My mom almost never saw me fight. She only had enough money in the budget to buy gas to get to work and back. There was NO extra. We lived so close to the edge.
Judo tournaments cost $2 to enter. My mom was one of the few mothers that worked back then. She had 50 cents a day for lunch. We had so little that my entry fee came from her skipping lunch 4 days out of the week so she could give me the money. I would hop into the car of whichever parent from the club was giving me a ride that week, with the money my mother saved by going hungry and by God I was coming home with a medal!
When I came home from the hospital after surgery and couldn't even stand up, my 19-year-old brother, who had dropped out of college to get a job, gave my mother money to take me to Florida to stay with my grandparents. He said,
"Don't come back until she can run a mile."
That year, I won my first national judo championships, my first international judo gold medal and set four of my university's track records while I was at it. Shared craziness.
I should never have won anything in judo. I'm not male, if you haven't guessed, I'm not Japanese, my first coaches were guys at the local YMCA, I had no money and because I was so injured I couldn't even do most of the throws. Dragging people to the mat and arm barring them is a style when Royc Gracie does it. When I did it, it was because that was the only thing I could physically do. Yet, I won anyway.
Winning at the level of insanity is an abnormal thing and I don't believe people escape unchanged.
You can become a jerk with a gold medal and believe the rules of common courtesy and society don't apply to you because you are so awesome - and if you've never had moments of that, you are a better person than me.
You can take that same insanity and apply it to life - I earned a PhD and, as a widow with three small children, quit my safe university job to found my first technology company - and I am looking at an entire room full of people who have that same level of craziness.
Being on top of the world is a gift you can't adequately show your gratitude for. Literally, you have had your dreams come true. It's crazy.
If you're really, really lucky, you will have the opportunity to infect that level of craziness into the next generation
Every time I say to a child
- Winning is a habit. No one has the right to beat you.
Every time I pull a nervous student aside and say, "Niña , I will never ask you to do anything I don't believe you can do. You can do this."
--- That's my way of saying thank you.
So, thank you
Here is my evrybit from the International Sports Hall of Fame.
Thank you to Julia De Mars for the photos and video.