Let me tell you a story about a young lady, Kim (The Small Miracle) Sandoval, who has been staying with me for the past three weeks. She is a boxer, from Chile. Despite having only turned 17 years old this week, she has had 24 fights already. She has won 21 of them. Her losses came from a woman who is 60 kilos (she’s 48), a woman who was in her 20s that she fought when she was 15 and in the finals of the South American championships.
So, she is young, she is talented and she is throwing everything she can into boxing. She even is on a modified home-school program so she can do well academically and train three times a day.
The support she receives from the Chilean government is - nothing.
She is in the U.S. because I bought her plane ticket and let her stay at my house. Although I am one to support people, I cannot spend four hours every day driving her to practice, waiting for her to practice and driving her back. I run a company that makes educational games, like our cool augmented reality app for kids, Math: The Universal Language.
I took her to three gyms here in Los Angeles and they all said the same thing, that she has a lot of talent, heart and physical ability. They all agreed that she has a good shot of making it to the Olympics.
Two out of the three clubs were willing to let her train at a very low cost, since she has no money to pay. One of the coaches went out of his way to meet her and give her extra training on his own time.
What she really needs is a sponsor to buy her a few plane tickets to come up here a few times a year and train. She could also really use some help getting to tournaments. She can’t even afford to go to boxing tournaments outside of Chile. (If you are going to ask why Ronda doesn’t fund her, just stop. If you are asking that question you obviously have no idea how much Ronda does to fund various charities and causes. It’s a lot.)
Despite her obvious work ethic and talent, no one was interested in helping her all that much.
Two of my daughters pointed out the obvious - there is no money in women’s boxing, so anyone who is helping her is just doing it out of the goodness of their heart.
Which brings me back to judo.
Most of us in judo in this country have parents who pay for us to attend tournaments. If you are very talented, there is usually someone in the country who will step up and pay for expenses your family can’t afford. For me, it was Frank Fullerton and Bruce Toups. Thank you.
Most successful competitors in judo in the U.S. have gotten support from individuals. Lynn Thursby is just one person who has been very influential in providing financial support. There are others but I’m not sure it would be okay with them to give their names, so I won’t.
Sadly, to me, most of those competitors seem to take it for granted. “Of course you should fund me. I am winning medals for this country. And the National Governing Body should fund me MORE.”
While the second part of that statement is probably true, the first is not. We, and I include myself in this, are all lucky to be doing judo in America where a sport that has minor participation and almost zero probability of making much money can still get sponsorships for our top athletes. It may not be as much as you would like and it may even not be as much as you deserve, but keep in mind that there are a lot of countries where no matter how good you are, you will get nothing .
I was nowhere near as nice a person as Kim when I was her age. I was dedicated, but not as dedicated as she is at that age. My mom was supportive but not as supportive as Kim’s mom is. To be fair to my mom, I was the middle of five kids, where Kim is the youngest of six, so it’s a bit easier for her mom.
Still, by the time I was her age, the Chicago Yudanshakai was paying my way to the national championships. Thank you.
Every now and then, I stop and am grateful for the opportunities I have been handed. Yes, I worked my ass off but so do other people around the world and they don’t all get the opportunities to train and compete that we do.