July 31, 2012

Sacramento judo athlete to compete in London Paralympics

Katie Davis admits she is no natural athlete, but neither that nor the fact that she was born without sight stopped her from becoming a Paralympian.

Katie Davis admits she is no natural athlete, but neither that nor the fact that she was born without sight stopped her from becoming a Paralympian.

Davis, 26, is one of six judo athletes chosen for the U.S. Paralympic Judo Team and one of two from Sacramento.

In one month, she will compete in London in the +70kg (about 154 pounds) weight class, which means that at about 190 pounds, she will likely go up against opponents 50 to 100 pounds heavier.

The Katie Davis from 10 years ago would never have imagined training in judo, much less representing the United States.

"It (judo) challenges me, and it's definitely something I never thought I'd be able to do. I wasn't the healthiest kid," she said.

Davis was introduced to the sport in 2003 by her then-boyfriend, now-husband Michael Davis, 31, who lost his sight at age 20 as a result of a brain tumor. The pair had met the prior year at a camp held by the Society for the Blind, during which Michael Davis said he could not stand her. But he also could not stop thinking about her and finally called her on Sept. 13, 2002.

"By the end of the conversation, I pretty much asked her to marry me," he said.

Because of their age difference, her parents gave the pair limited freedom to date, so he decided to take her to Team Sacramento Judo, where he trained.

"When she did that first class, she was willing to come back," said Michael Davis. "It was good cardio, good workout, and she just fell in love with judo."

Though she enjoyed the sport, Katie Davis said she struggled with it and worked very hard to improve.

"She had a very difficult time," said head sensei (coach) of Team Sacramento Judo, Brent Goodall. "She has asthma, she has a bad knee, so everything was not really easy for her, because our workouts are very physically difficult."

But she never gave up, and Goodall said she impressed him with her attitude.

"I've definitely taken a lot of work to get rid of awkwardness and un-athleticism," said Katie Davis. Even having placed in the 78kg weight class at two Visually Impaired World Judo Championships, she has not let up.

On top of a fitness routine six out of seven days per week and judo practice at various schools three to four times a week, Davis also holds a full-time position at Discovery Tree School, where she works with the 1-year-olds.

Goodall said simple things such as transportation are challenges that take her much longer than a sighted person. Her days start at 6 or 7 a.m., and she doesn't get home until 9 or 10 p.m.

"I don't sleep much anymore," she said, adding that she does feel stronger and more confident because of the training.

For judo training, Katie Davis also attends the practices of other judo clubs in the area, including one with Christella Garcia, 33, who will compete in the 70kg weight class.

"We've been friends for a while. The last few years, we've gotten closer," said Katie Davis. "We definitely offset each other and help each other a lot. She has the strength that I don't."

But Katie Davis has a different kind of strength. During practice with Team Sacramento Judo on Saturday, she gave it her all. When she missed a throw, she laughed it off. Then she would reset, her face set in concentration as she prepared to do the move, the next time perfectly.

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