SPORTS

Rio 2016: Angelica Delgado is living out her father's Olympic dream with judo

A first-generation American born to Cuban parents, Angelica Delgado learned Judo when she was 9 years old. In 2012, Delgado finished one spot away from qualifying to the London Olympics. (2011 Getty Images)

A first-generation American born to Cuban parents, Angelica Delgado learned Judo when she was 9 years old. In 2012, Delgado finished one spot away from qualifying to the London Olympics. (2011 Getty Images)  (2011 Getty Images)

Ever since she saw her father’s old judogi hanging in the closet, Angelica Delgado has known that the sport is her calling.

Intrigued by the white cotton uniform, the young Delgado began asking questions, begging her father, Miguel Angel, to teach her the ropes of the sport he once loved.

Since then, she has followed in the footsteps of Miguel Angel, who was part of Cuba’s national judo team before defecting to the United States in the 1980s.

At a Glance

Name: Angelica Delgado
Age: 25
Discipline: Judo
Division: Women's 52kg
Begins competition: Sun. 8/7, 10 a.m. EDT

Judo became father and daughter's shared passion. They would stay up until 3 a.m. watching world championships and cheering on strong, female athletes.

“That’s when I knew that I wanted to be there one day, to become a world – an Olympic – champion” Delgado told Fox News Latino. “The music, the theme songs would give me goose bumps, and that’s when I knew I was super passionate about the sport.”

The three-time U.S. national champion in the 52 kilogram division learned in her backyard, training regularly with her father until he took her to a judo school at the age of 9.

Now Delgado, 25, is living her father’s dream: competing at the Olympics – a goal he was unable to achieve once he defected to the United States.

Currently ranked number 25 in the world, Delgado has won silver and two bronze medals at the Pan American Games. Of the 14 medals she has won since 2013 at international competitions, 11 of them were earned in South America, giving the Miami-raised judoka a world of confidence heading into the Rio Games.

Delgado rebounded after a rocky Olympic qualifying in 2012, when she finished one spot short of making it to the Olympics. Delgado still went to London but only as a training partner, which at least allowed her to experience the games.

“It gave me that fuel, it really lit a fire under me, so I could change all those mistakes that I needed to correct for these games” Delgado told FNL.

Starting in 2012, Delgado stepped up her game, adding extra training hours to her schedule and making her schedule more judo-oriented. 

She currently works out multiple times a day, 6 days a week, fine-tuning everything from strength and physical conditioning to mental training, visualization techniques and hand-eye coordination.

Unlike most sports, judo does not have a season, which means that Delgado travels year round to compete. Despite the difficulties of leaving for tournaments twice a month, Delgado believes she’s in the best shape she’s ever been in.

“I have proved to myself that I can do it when it’s crunch time, that I have the mentality and that I’m tough enough to make it when everything is on the line,” she told FNL.

Outside of Judo, Delgado is your typical college student. She is just 16 credits away from graduating, but she hopes to qualify again for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

“I don’t know what I want to do as a career yet, but judo and becoming an Olympic medalist is what I’ve known that I wanted to do since I can remember,” she said.