Big Sky State Games

U.S. Olympian in judo and Big Sky State Games torch lighter Marti Malloy speaks during a press conference on Friday.

BILLINGS — Marti Malloy thought she would never find anything as difficult as judo.

The sport that dominated two-thirds of her life, had her training six to seven hours daily and took her around the world, culminating with competing in two Olympics. Malloy represented the United States in London in 2012 where she earned a bronze medal and Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Malloy also won a silver at the World Championships in Rio de Janeiro in 2013. “In judo circles, the World Championships is the pinnacle, the cream of the crop,” she said.

It took some false starts, but Malloy found something just as challenging as the sport she loves.

The real world.

Since transitioning into a post-Olympic professional career, Malloy is working for a digital health company in San Francisco.

“I want to work. I didn’t get a bachelor’s and master’s degree to sit on my ass,” joked the friendly Malloy of obtaining both at San Jose State. “It’s a start-up. It’s fast-paced and always changing. I eat that role up like Sunday dinner.”

While attending SJS, Malloy trained under the tutelage of legendary judo coach Yushihiro Yuchida, who competed on the first U.S. Olympic Judo team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Malloy, a two-time Olympian, is originally from Oak Harbor, Washington. She is in Billings this weekend as the torch lighter for the Big Sky State Games. She is also conducting a judo seminar at Huntley Project High School on Saturday afternoon. The clinic is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. 

“It’s all about the details,” Malloy said of the seminar focus, which is open to both children and adults. “It’s fundamentals. I will try to teach as many techniques as I know.

“They’re going to have fun.”

And she added this caveat. “They will have no choice but to learn,” Malloy said with another smile.

Malloy spoke during a press conference at the First Interstate Bank Operations Center on Friday afternoon.

The daughter of a 20-year Navy veteran, Malloy got into judo because her mother needed a place to put her and her three high-energy brothers. The Naval base had a free judo program.

Malloy didn’t just excel, she dominated. Winning in judo is based on the premise of putting the opponent to the mat or submission. Malloy would compete in five matches during a tournament and be on the mat less than a minute. She was undefeated for three years.

“I got a lot of positive reinforcement. You win and people are happy,” Malloy said. “When I was about nine, judo started being an Olympic dream.”

A seminar with Mike Swain, one of the most respected judo coaches in the United States, had Malloy expanding her competitive horizons.

“It really had an impact on me,” she recalled. “I can be a champion outside my town … outside my state?”

Malloy burst on the international scene as a teenager by winning a gold medal at a tournament in Canada. She missed making the Olympic team in 2008 by a half-point. “It was the best thing that to me. I was not ready to be an Olympic teammate.”

It took a mental epiphany to propel her to a bronze medal in London four years later.

Malloy had drawn Telma Monteiro of Portugal in the first round. Malloy was 0-6 against Monteiro in previous competitions.

“I was mad about it,” said Malloy. “Then the night before, I had a change in my mentality. I realized every qualifier deserved to be there. Everybody had just a good a chance to win as anyone else.”

Malloy defeated Monteiro and would win two more matches before losing in the semifinals. She put down Italy’s Giulia Quintavalle for the Olympic medal.

“The moment I won that bronze medal, it was unreal,” she told the assembled group on Friday.

But her most vivid memory of London doesn’t concern herself.

“There are so many,” Malloy said, flipping through her mental checklist. “It’s a montage of images. The most vivid is my best friend Kayla Harrison winning the gold.”

Harrison, a two-time gold medalist, is now a mixed martial arts fighter. Malloy declined to follow the MMA path.

“I’ve had lots of friends who have transitioned to that,” she said. “Not interested. I love my judo.”

Malloy entered the 2016 Olympics in Rio seeded third but lost in the first round.

“Looking back three years now, I definitely let some of the pressure get to me,” she admitted.

Malloy was training for the 2017 World Championship when she re-aggravated a herniated disc and retired from competition.

She married long-time boyfriend David Torres two years ago and joined the workforce. She and Torres, a member of the Mexico judo national team, met when she was a freshman at SJS. Malloy still does judo daily after work.

“And I do weightlifting. You can’t turn that (competitive fire) off,” she added.

Malloy also conducts judo seminars around the country. “Because I work full-time, I try to limit myself to one a month,” she said.

“I have learned so much from the sport itself. About work ethic and what you control. What I learned from judo has helped me in real life.”

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Email Joe Kusek at joe.kusek@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJoe