Olympic judo alternates look forward to 2012

While Travis Stevens awaits his shot in Beijing, Jason Morris Judo Club Olympic team alternates Jere
Glenville’s Jeremy Liggett (white) throws Tanner Singh on his way to locking up the alternate Olympic slot at 66kg in the U.S. judo trials on June 13 in las Vegas. (Lou DiGesare/Realjudo.net)
Glenville’s Jeremy Liggett (white) throws Tanner Singh on his way to locking up the alternate Olympic slot at 66kg in the U.S. judo trials on June 13 in las Vegas. (Lou DiGesare/Realjudo.net)

As far as Travis Stevens is concerned, the journey is not over. Not even close.

Stevens, who became the first athlete from the Jason Morris Judo Club to make an Olympic team, prefers not to dwell on that accomplishment. His focus is six weeks — and thousands of miles — down the road.

“It was a pure adrenaline rush,” the 22-year-old native of Tacoma, Wash., said of his immediate reaction after beating Aaron Cohen in overtime to win the 81kg spot on the men’s team that will compete in Beijing in August. “But it’s not over with yet. The four-year cycle isn’t over.”

“He was dominant the whole day,” said Morris.

Stevens’ triumph in the finals capped a great Olympic Trials for the JMJC, which saw four other athletes reach the finals. Two of the losing finalists — Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake grad­uates Jeremy Liggett and Hannah Martin — fought back to secure spots as alternates on the Olympic squad. Liggett got a guaranteed trip to Beijing when he was selected as one of the three training partners for the men’s team.

“We didn’t climb the mountain more than once, but everyone pretty much peaked at the right time,” said Morris, himself a four-time Olympian and 1992 silver

medalist.

Especially Stevens.

Even if he didn’t get to the peak of the mountain he’s intent on scaling, Stevens can surely see the summit.

That’s in large part because of an abilty to combine his physical skills with a tremendous focus, willling himself to be better than his opponent.

“Most of it is mental,” said

Stevens, who got a short break when he returned home for a week after the Trials. “You have to convince yourself that you’re going to give that extra bit to finish that one last attack, knowing that you could stand up and not have anything left.”

Liggett’s advancement to the 66kg finals, where the 19-year-old dropped a decision to 26-year-old Taylor Takata, opened some eyes on the national scene.

“He impressed enough people that they picked him as one of the training partners to accompany the team to Beijing,” said Morris.

“I get to do everything there except compete,” said the 19-year-old. “It’s a great opportunity to be able to take in the whole Olympic experience.”

Liggett was not happy with his perforance in the Trials.

“I felt I could have fought better,” said Liggett, who beat former JMJC teammate Nate Tora in overtime to get to the finals. “I couldn’t my grip, I didn’t feel comfortable in the final. I don’t think there’s anyone who’s going to throw me clean. It’s all in the grip.”

Liggett, who fought back to claim a spot as an alternate, feels his first Olympic Trials sets him up well as the next four-year Olympic cycle begins.

“I’ve kind of got one foot in the water now,” he said. “I’m almost positive I’m going to make it next time.”

Martin, also 19, faced two of the most veteran females in the competition, beating JMJC teammate Carrie Chandler in the semis before losing a close decision to 34-year-old Val Gotay in the 57kg champ­ionship bout.

“It was weird facing Carrie, because we’re training partners,” said Martin, who is attending Schenec­tady County Community College while training full-time. “Carrie’s had so much success.

“We both knew it was probably going to happen. But we both wanted to get to the finals.”

Martin’s effort has put her in the picture for the next Olympics.

“I’m not disappointed, because this was my first time at the Trials,” said Martin, who has been involved in the sport for 12 years. “I really want to make an Olympic team.”

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