For most kids, sports are a fun way to stay healthy, active and out of Mom’s hair. But Kyle Vashkulat, Target team member of the Clifton Park, N.Y store and judo champ, turned his excess energy into an Olympic dream.
“I started judo when I was 12 years old at a local club by my house in Philadelphia,” he says. “I was a chunky little kid running around causing trouble, so my parents knew they had to get me into sports.”
Today, Kyle is ranked No. 1 in the United States and No. 28 in the world, and will be representing Team USA in judo during the 2012 London Olympics. But this accomplishment didn’t come easy—he trains approximately six to eight hours a day! We’re tired just thinking about it.
Below, Kyle took time out of his jam-packed training schedule to take us on a journey, from when he first got into the sport to how he’s mentally and physically prepping for the big day.
Did you ever think you’d be a part of the iconic Olympic games?
To be honest, not really. Even with the Olympic games only a couple of months away, it still hasn’t hit me. I feel like it won’t really sink in until I’m on the flight to London.
You must have a big fan club at your Target store.
It’s great to see how excited everyone is about me making this team. I hope that I don’t let them down when I compete. My Target team has been very supportive of me—they’re psyched.
What excites you most about the Olympics?
Any time the Olympics come around, it’s a very exciting time. We get to show how proud we are of our country, so being one of the athletes representing USA is just a tremendous opportunity. As an athlete, it’s very exciting to know that you have the support of your entire country and that all eyes are on you.
How did you first get into judo?
When I was younger, our family friend owned a judo school and said I should try it out. I fell in love with it the very first time I stepped out on the mat, and I stuck with it ever since.
You’re ranked No. 1 in the United States! How did it feel when you first found out?
I always knew that I wanted to be one of the top ranked players. When I won Nationals and finally reached the top, it was like a dream come true. But in reality, it was a stepping-stone to bigger and better things.
What does your training schedule look like?
A normal day starts out at the gym. I either concentrate on cardio, which includes running or riding the bike, or strength training. After that, I go home and relax for a bit before judo practice. At practice, my coach and I try to concentrate on perfecting my technique or do live rounds to get ready for a tournament that is coming up. I work out about six to eight hours a day, but I love what I do and that makes it a whole lot easier.
How are you mentally prepping for the Olympics?
I think that the best way to mentally prepare is to just believe in yourself and keep reminding yourself that you did everything you needed to do to get ready. As long as you know that you did your absolute best to prepare, you should be fine.
If (we think when) you win, where are you going to display your medal?
My parents have been hanging up all of my medals at their house in Philadelphia. So I think I’ll just give my medal to my mom, and let her take care of it.
Read another Target team member’s inspiring journey to the Olympics
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