Judo Student to Attend International Tournament
Kinesiology major Molly O'Rourke competes all over the world
September 22, 2005 5:37 PM
You might think that Molly O’Rourke would be ready for a break after competing at the World Judo Championships in Cairo, Egypt at the beginning of September. But this SF State senior in Kinesiology is doing nothing of the sort.
This 22-year-old judoka – the term used for a student of judo – competes September 24 in Montreal, Quebec at an international tournament called Rendezvous. She then heads to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to compete in the USA U.S. Open Judo Championships the following weekend.
The world championship was the largest tournament that O’Rourke had competed in. Even though she was a little disappointed with her first bout – about a minute-and-a-half struggle, which she lost - she still retains her rank as the number two in the country in her weight class, 87 kilograms (nearly 192 pounds) and remains a formidable force in American judo. The competition showed her what she needed to work on.
“Going there really shows me what I need to do in order to really hang with them,” she said.
O’Rourke currently studies judo under the tutelage of Dr. David Matsumoto, SF State psychology professor and Director of the Culture and Emotion Research Laboratory at SF State and member of the International Judo Federation. Matsumoto sensei – the Japanese honorific term for teacher – is a sixth-degree-black-belt and has been O’Rourke’s primary judo instructor since 2002. Even though he has been her coach for most of her major competitions, winning medals is not what he’s teaching her. The goal of judo is self-development, not defeating opponents.
“I am more concerned about her development as a person, whether she earns a medal or not,” Matsumoto explained. “I have already seen vast changes in her self-esteem and confidence.”
O’Rourke stated studying judo eight years ago in Oak Harbor, Washington when she was in the eighth grade. She net Matsumoto in Seattle when he came to train at a dojo there. After training with him she was permanently hooked. While in high school she would fly from Seattle to the Bay Area to train at the East Bay Judo Institute, Matsumoto’s dojo.
“I would fly down on a Friday and fly home on Sunday twice, maybe three times a month,” she recalled.
Her first big tournament was as a sixteen-year-old at the Junior National Championships in 1999 where she placed third. The next year she would claim first.
In 2004 she placed second at the Senior National Championships in San Diego. In spring of this year she placed first at nationals and at the world team trials, earning her a spot on the judo team that represented the United States at the world championships.
Her accomplishments are extraordinary, but unfortunately judo doesn’t receive the same attention in the United States that it does in the rest of the world. According to O’Rourke, judo is the second only to soccer as the most popular sport in the world.
“The U.S. doesn’t care about judo,” she laments. “They just don’t understand it.”
American disinterest hasn’t diminished her drive. O’Rourke dons her gi – the white or blue uniforms ubiquitous with judo – and trains for two hours a day. She spends an additional hour in the gym working on weight training and endurance.
“School in the morning, judo at night,” she said, describing her demanding schedule.
O’Rourke still has Olympic dreams, but her coach said that she still has some sizeable hurdles to clear.
“She’ll have to continue to improve in her judo ability,” Matsumoto said.
In order to gain a spot on the Olympic judo team she will have to qualify a slot by placing in the top three in the Pan-American Union – which covers judo in the Americas. Even if she earns a slot for the U.S. team, she will still have to compete in the Olympic trials in order to retain her spot on the Olympic team. Whether or not she makes the team, her accomplishments bode well for judo recognition at the university and beyond.
“It’s good for the university to have national recognition,” Matsumoto said.
While some parents might worry about their child getting hurt during competition, O’Rourke ‘s parents are very supportive.
“My parents are really into it,” she said. “My parents tell me ‘Don’t think that you haven’t accomplished anything, because you have.’”
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