Michael Golden’s career in judo began with desire. At 11 years old, he felt he needed to improve.
“I started because I wanted to get better at wrestling,” the 17-year-old from Crystal Lake said.
When Michael wanted to start judo, he went straight to his father Robert. Robert fought in judo when he was young, but eventually he stopped because he wasn’t as committed to it as he wanted to be. When Michael – and his intrigued younger sister Sara – came to Robert saying they wanted to take on judo, Robert knew he’d give them the support he once might have lacked.
“We try to keep it to, ‘You guys make your decision on what you want to do, and then we’ll support you,’ ” Robert said. “ ‘You want to train at the highest level and miss friends and activities? We’ll do that. You want to train at a local level and not compete? We’ll support that.’ ”
After a few years, Michael decided he wanted to train at the highest level he could, with his dad as his coach. So, with the support of his family, Michael took up a voracious practice schedule – four different training clubs, six days a week, plus about 75 tournaments in five years.
The practice has paid off.
In 2012, Michael placed second in the Junior Olympic Nationals and the U.S. Open. He took first in the Junior International Olympic Championships, the Midwestern Championships and the Illinois State Championship. As of today, he’s ranked second in the United States for his weight class (73 kilograms).
“We’ve been pushing really hard for three years,” said Michael, who will be a senior at Crystal Lake South. “It’s been really no offseason. It’s been judo, wrestling and judo.”
In May, Michael earned his first-degree black belt in judo. A few days later, he learned he would be one of a handful of boys fighting for Team USA in the 2013 Pan American Junior Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina – Michael’s first tournament outside of the United States.
The tournament will take place from July 11 to 14 and will feature “winners of each respective age and weight division in the IJF Junior and Cadet categories at the Scholastic and Youth Nationals,” as well as four total wild card entrants, according to teamusa.org.
Because flying south and competing for a few days will be costly for Michael and Robert, the Goldens created a fundraiser. So far, it’s been helpful, Michael’s mother Anna said.
“I think that flying to Argentina and fighting for the USA is a huge honor,” said Robert, a Certified USA Continental Coach. “It’s a huge commitment for the family, and there are people that are helping and stepping up. The good thing is that there’s a lot of people who do care and a lot of people that help.”
The Goldens hope they can raise enough money to cover the costs of the tournament and fully focus on the titanic competition ahead.
“It’s helping,” Robert said, “but we’re still short.”
Want to help?
To make a donation to help Crystal Lake South senior Michael Golden pay for his trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to compete in the 2013 Pan American Junior Championships on July 11 to 14, visit www.gofundme.com/339r44 or send checks to Yorkville Judo Club LLC, 1628 Lilac Drive, Crystal Lake, IL.