Colton Brown, ’15 Business Administration, will represent Team USA in judo at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, later this month. This is Brown’s second Olympic games after competing in the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016.
Brown is the latest judoka who graduated from SJSU to compete on the world’s most storied athletics stage — a legacy that began with Yoshihiro Uchida serving as the head coach of the first U.S. judo team in 1964, the last time the Summer Olympics were held in Tokyo. Race walker Robyn Stevens joins Brown as the two Spartans who will compete for Team USA at the 2021 Games.
Editor’s Note: See the timeline of SJSU-affiliated participants representing Team USA in nearly every Olympics since 1924.
Ahead of Brown’s quest for his first Olympic medal, which begins with his first match on July 28, he shared his thoughts on representing the U.S. at the Olympics, how the pandemic affected preparation for the games, and what it means to him to be part of SJSU’s judo legacy.
1) What does it mean to you to be able to represent the U.S. again at the Olympics?
The more time I spend competing at the highest level, the more I realize that I am very fortunate to be able to do what I love every day. Representing my country on the Olympic stage is an incredible honor, and I am happy to have gotten this opportunity twice.
2) With the pandemic pushing the Olympics back a year, did you see that as a benefit or difficult to manage — especially since you likely have a routine as you prepare for the Olympics?
Great question. During the beginning of the pandemic, things were very confusing. There was a lot of uncertainty, so I wasn’t sure whether or not the Olympics were even going to take place. I was used to training three to four times a day, but when everything shut down, the only thing I was able to do was run and bike through the mountains.
To be honest, I was a little sad that the Olympics weren’t happening in 2020 because I felt my preparation up to that point was great. But, I soon realized the severity of the situation and understood that it was best for the world if they postponed the games.
Throughout the months that I wasn’t able to do judo, I realized how much I genuinely loved the sport. When something is taken away from you, I feel like it gives you a new perspective. I found that I was no longer worried about whether or not the Olympics would happen, I was just excited to be able to train again. It took me back to when I was a child doing judo because I loved it. So, at the end of the day, the pandemic made me realize why I started judo and restored my love for the sport.
3) This will be a return to Tokyo for you since you competed there in 2019 at the World Championships. Although there will be restrictions in place there, what are you most looking forward to?
Tokyo is one of my favorite cities in the world. A lot of people don’t know this, but when I graduated high school, right before I went to SJSU, I lived in Japan for four months. I went there to train at Nihon University, and I was the only American in the all-Japanese dormitory. Between the training and language barrier, it was one of the most difficult experiences of my life, but the amount of friendships that formed because of that experience are priceless.
Since then, I have traveled back to Japan twice a year to train, so I’m very familiar with Tokyo. I’m looking forward to performing in front of my friends and the Japanese fans that are allowed to attend the Olympics. I’m also looking forward to the amazing food that Tokyo has to offer.
Editor’s Note: As of July 8, fans will not be allowed at the Tokyo Olympics.
4) You are a standout in a storied history of judo competitors and coaches from SJSU, starting with Yoshihiro Uchida. What does it mean to you to be a part of the Spartan judo legacy?
Mr. Uchida is one of my idols. Throughout my time at SJSU, he taught me countless lessons on and off of the mat. When I first arrived at SJSU as a freshman, I was impressed by all of the amazing individuals who came through the judo program. I remember looking up to people like Marti Malloy and Mike Swain. Hearing stories of how they trained and the obstacles they had to overcome throughout their careers really inspired me.
As I began to achieve some success, I realized that I could be an example for the younger generation. SJSU graduates like Mike and Marti gave me hope when I was younger that I could be something special. The thought that I could now have that impact on the lives of other Spartans truly means the world to me.
Editor’s Note: Watch Brown train with Yoshihiro Uchida ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics.
5) Is there anything from your time at SJSU that you still carry with you today (a training method, something a professor or coach told you, etc.)?
SJSU is a great place. I tell people all the time that my time at SJSU was the most fun I’ve ever had in my career. I think when you put a bunch of people together who are trying to achieve a common goal, it makes for a special place. The one thing that SJSU taught me was to lead by example. I’ve learned so much by simply watching successful people who came before me. Without that example, I don’t know if I would be where I am today.
6) Any words for Spartan Nation as they get ready to cheer you on at the games?
I just want to say thank you to all of the Spartans supporting me! I appreciate all of the love and will keep the Spartan mentality in mind when I’m out there fighting.