WAKEFIELD — Jimmy Pedro, a four-time Olympian, two-time bronze medal winner and 1999 world champion, has apparently passed on his judo genes to his children.
All three have competed in the sport and won medals of their own, most recently during July at the United States Judo Association (USJA) and United States Judo Federation (USJF) Nationals in Florida.
AJ, 8, won gold medals in both competitions in the boys 8-year-old under 31 kg (68 pounds); Casey, 10, also earned gold in both her competitions for girls 9-10-year-old under 43 kg (95 pounds). Ricky, 6, could not compete in the USJF competition due to age restrictions, but won the bronze in the USJA boys 7-year-old under 20 kg division (44 pounds).
“They grew up coming to the school, playing around on the mats,” Pedro said. “I always encouraged them to practice, but at age 6 I told them they had to do judo. It’s not mandatory that they compete, but it is that they practice.”
Pedro feels that judo is the best activity for a child’s physical development and character.
“It gives confidence, discipline and focus,” Pedro explained. “It helps you succeed in every area of life, not just in sports.”
AJ, who also earned the honor of best technique at the USJF Nationals, agreed with his father.
“I’m happy I do judo; it makes me stronger,” AJ said. “Judo helps me in other sports too because of the workouts.”
As the owner of Pedro’s Judo Center in Wakefield, Pedro said the mission of the school is to produce leaders and champions on and off the mat.
“I don’t want just good athletes, but good people,” Pedro said.
Pedro uses his skills and experience to help other American elite judo athletes make the Olympic team and take it to the next level.
“In this country the challenge that American judo faces is there really isn’t or aren’t a whole lot of options for talented youth to get the proper training to get them to the next level,” Pedro explained. “I would like my dojo to become sort of the number-one destination for talented athletes in the United States to come to and train full time.”
One of those elite athletes is Rick Hawn, who was Pedro’s teammate at the 2004 Olympics. Pedro earned his second bronze medal in those games, the first coming in 1996. Hawn had the second best American performance, placing ninth.
“He is the best coach in the country and he himself has had the best results for the country in the past 10 years,” Hawn said. “It was a no-brainer. There is no other option; I’d be retired.”
Pedro, the most successful athlete in American judo history, could have ventured down another path rather than share his knowledge.
But Pedro said that was never an option.
“It would really be a sin and a waste of my talent,” Pedro said. “All the years of experience I have gained; it would be a waste just to shut it off.”
Hawn, who has been training with Pedro for more than a year now, is ranked No. 1 in the United States at 81 kg (178 pounds) after a silver-medal performance at the Tre Torri International B-Level Competition in Italy in June. Hawn aspires to make the 2008 Olympic team that has already begun qualifying.
As for Pedro? He said he’ll do judo forever.
“It’s a part of me. Judo has made me who I am,” Pedro said. “It is in my blood and it brings my family closer together. It truly is a bonding experience.”
Pedro and his wife, Marie, reside in Methuen. Their three children attend the Comprehensive Grammar School.
Have a story idea? Gayle Simone can be reached at 978-970-4838 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.