Home » Sports Channel » Martial Arts Center » The Sport » Valerie Gotay: Olympic Judo Athlete and Mom

From the Beijing Games

Valerie Gotay: Olympic Judo Athlete and Mom

By JulieD

In many sports, the Olympics have progressively been undergoing a quiet revolution, one in which women, most specifically ones that are mothers, are still competing at the highest level in their sports well into their thirties. Valerie Gotay, 34, is a prime example. One of three U.S. women over 30 competing at the Beijing Olympics, she is also a dedicated mother to her two daughters, eleven year old Breanna and six year old Isabella.

World Class Athlete & Mother

At 18 years old, Gotay was supposed to compete in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Unfortunately, after working hard to lose 25 lbs to make her weight class, she became extremely sick with uncontrollable and violent muscle contractions which forced her to withdraw from the competition.

Gotay decided to stop competing after Barcelona and went on to college, where she pursued her degree. She later married and had children.  In 2004, she came out of retirement.  She was invited to compete in the British Open, and in 2007 was part of the United States’ team at the Pan American Games.

Balance & Sacrifice

Gotay balances training for the Olympics and being a mother to her two daughters, as well as home schooling them. However, she still feels guilty because, as the Olympics neared, she was forced to leave her children with family so that she could pursue full time training. 

She told NBC in an interview, “As the Olympics near, you have to do things that leave others behind, and I think that is the most difficult thing that I still struggle with; there’s many times that I’ve wanted to just pack my things up and go back to my children.”

However, she knows that her children understand the importance of what she is trying to accomplish. They actually are coping with her being gone better than she is. Despite feeling guilty, she knows that “in the end, the bigger lesson for my girls is that this was all for something and the sacrifices people make and the hard work to achieve something, and they understand that.”

Despite being over ten years older than her teammates, she is still one of the top six players in the world for her weight class and hopes to win the gold with her children in the stands.