My Story - January 2019
Updated: May 9, 2019
My name is Nicole Stout and I am currently a 2020 and 2024 USA Judo Olympic hopeful. Since I was three years old, my parents had me competing in sports--I grew up with a very competitive mindset and some of my favorite childhood memories were watching the Olympic events as a family. From then on, I was obsessed with making my dream as an Olympian a reality.
I focused on gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, and ballet growing up. By the time I was twelve, I was competing as a rhythmic gymnast on the international level. After 8 years of bullying from my teammates and the intense negative body image ideals being forced on me by my coaches, I finally burned out and quit.
I was determined to find another sport so that I could keep my Olympic dream alive. This proved very difficult because having just turned thirteen, I was told I was too old to start a new sport seriously at every turn. My dad and brother practiced Judo under the Olympian Patrick Burris--I enjoyed going to watch their practices. Burris approached me one day and asked how gymnastics was going--I explained my predicament and he asked, “Why don’t you just do judo?” I explained I had not done anything like it and I probably wouldn’t be very good, but he quickly convinced me that I would bring something to the table that no other judo player has ever been able to. Excited by the prospect, I asked my dad if I could join judo as my sport add he gave me a resounding “No”. He felt that I would hate it and eventually get hurt. I kicked up a fuss and insisted that he at least let me try it. Eventually, he relented but only if I agreed to take extra falls on the weekends. Obviously, I didn’t realize what that meant.
I very quickly discovered that being 5”0 and 80 lbs meant that I was much smaller than everyone else, and that falls are very painful. My dad asked me every night if I wanted to quit and, refusing to be wrong, I always insisted on returning. After competing for a year, I finally won my first match and from then on, I was hooked.
I moved to Florida and studied for five years under Japanese National Champion, Shinjiro Sasaki. In 2014, I was favored to win the U21 (under 21 years old) National Championships. After winning two matches, my foot became caught in the third match and I ended up falling in such a way that I tore my ACL and broke my foot. Being sixteen, many people around me, including my parents, urged me to quit due to the severity of the injury and to just focus on my school work.
After a slow year long recovery from surgery, I was able to slowly begin to compete again. Many people told me that getting over my fear and trusting my knee again would be nearly impossible and that it would never feel the same. With many recurring knee problems, I was disappointed to win a bronze at the 2015 U21 Nationals. Redoubling my effort and getting more creative with my knee braces, I trained even harder until the 2016 Nationals, where I won and qualified for the Junior Pan American Championships. That fall I was honored to receive the support of my sponsor CarnoSyn. My dad had supplemented SRCarnoSyn into my diet long before the sponsorship to help my cardio, but having them behind me as a sponsor was a huge boost in confidence. Along with this accomplishment, I had been able to balance my schoolwork and was accepted into Harvard University.
With the support of my sponsors and my family, I was able to gather the finances to move to New York in order to train under four-time Olympian and Olympic silver medalist,
Jason Morris. He was key in order to transition from U21 to the “Senior” or Olympic category tournaments. In 2017, I was the only American to qualify for the U21 and Senior Pan American Championship teams and the U21 and Senior World Championship teams. In 2018 I received a sponsorship from Adidas and sponsor from the United States Olympic Committee as an official Olympic hopeful.
Now, 2019 is going to be my most ambitious year yet. I am competing every month and am attempting to qualify for the World University Games, where I would represent Harvard and the United States in a tournament second only to the Olympics. I hope that you follow me as I work through the many trials and tribulations life can present at times and support me as I chase my dreams.