American judoist Brian Olson will take time away from his duties as president and chief instructor at the Boulder Judo Training Center to compete at the upcoming Olympics in Athens, Greece. He hopes to improve on his seventh place finish at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
Coaching is not new territory to Brian Olson. He has been coaching judo for 14 years. His first coaching experience came as an athlete assistant coach in the U.S. Olympic Training Center Junior Judo Program. As chief instructor, he not only teaches his students the fundamentals of judo, but he also puts emphasis on their personal growth and character development. Olson attributes his students' successes on the national and international level to his teaching style.
Long before Olson started coaching he was just another kid participating in the sport for fun.
"My dad was in the military," he said. "He was stationed in Korea. He had seen judo over there, but never had participated in it. He came back and when I was six there was a little judo club about a mile from my house, so he put me and my brother in it. He always liked the combativity, but he also liked the martial arts aspect behind it with the discipline and everything like that, and things just went from there. I just started doing Junior Nationals and he was sure to make it a family thing."
When Brian Olson was 11 years old, he watched Ed Liddie receive the bronze medal in the extra lightweight (60kg/132 lbs) division at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Then Olson told his mother that he would someday win an Olympic medal. He started showing success at an early age when he won several junior national titles and represented the United States at the Junior World Championships.
During his junior year of high school, Olson attended a summer session at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where his performance impressed Ed Liddie. After Liddie convinced Olson's parents to let him stay there and train with him, Olson moved there that summer and Liddie has been his coach ever since.
Since moving up to the senior level, Olson has won five national championships and was the 1999 Pan American Champion. Olson was also the bronze medalist at the 1997 Judo World Championships, finishing the season ranked third in the world. In addition, he has won nine medals at the annual U.S. International Invitational, the largest international judo event in the hemisphere.
He is currently the number one ranked U.S. judo athlete in the 90 kilogram division.
And Brian Olson says his goal is to win a gold medal that has alluded him at the last two Olympics.
"The Sydney games did not end up being the games I wanted it to be because I lost a split-flag decision with one second left to go on the clock," he said. "The score got tied and I lost the split-flag decision, so I didn't get the chance to fight for the bronze medal, so that was pretty disheartening. I know better what I need to improve on. I have been working on it for over the last four years, so I am definitely looking to go into Athens with the best chance that I possibly have out of the last two Olympics."
Brian Olson will soon retire from competitive judo to train and compete with the professional judo team, Kenamju, in the Netherlands, but not before attempting to win his first Olympic medal.