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Spotlight on Goldman Sachs Olympians: David Oda

As nations around the world unite to compete for the top spot in the Rio 2016 Olympics, we are celebrating Olympic athletes across Goldman Sachs in a new Q&A series. Seven employees will share their journeys, memories and stories from the games and how the experience has shaped their perspectives today. Keep visiting the careers blog for new profiles over the next few weeks.

David Oda works in Goldman Sachs’ Human Capital Management Division in Tokyo. He qualified for the US Men’s Judo Team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens but could not compete due to an injury. Below, David highlights why he started practicing judo, his father’s influence and the parallels he draws between sport and work.

Q: How did you get involved in judo?
David: I started the sport at the age of six because when I was in elementary school, I often got beat up. My parents wanted me to take self-defense classes so that I could protect myself on my way home from school. At first I wasn’t very good at it. I lost in the sport all the time because I would much rather have made friends than fight.

My father passed away when I was 12 years old, and at that time I decided I would start to win to honor my father.

I started dedicating my time to studying more diligently [and] to become more proficient in judo. I aimed specifically to compete in tournaments that would take me to the Olympics or at least get me close. It was at the age of 18 that I actually made my debut as an Olympic hopeful.

Q: Describe the training and commitment that Olympic-level performance requires. What type of preparation and sacrifice did your training demand?
David: In the beginning, I learned all of the techniques and went to all of the practices – I was a diligent student and wanted to perfect the sport. I went to practice three times a week for about two hours every day [during the school year].  After school, especially when I started going to high school, it was a huge commitment of time in addition to studying for exams and doing homework [while being physically exhausted].

Q: Please share any setbacks or challenges you experienced on your path to the Olympics. How did these impact you and how did you manage them?
David: I would always have to deal with broken fingers, broken bones, [wrist and ankle] sprains and still having to perform at my best.

I participated in a weight class that was quite challenging for me – a lot of my opponents were taller and stronger than me. I felt like every single tournament that I went to, I was always the underdog. So I had to rely on not just the perfection of my techniques but also really knowing and studying my opponents – really looking at how they would perform or what their favorite techniques were.

Q: How did your experience of pursuing excellence in your sport shape your outlook overall? How does your Olympic experience continue to influence your perspective today? 
David: I approach [work] the same way that I did [judo] in the sense that when it’s time for me to perform, I make sure I’ve weighed and calculated everything that I need to do in the right manner that allows [my colleagues] to see that I’ve put forth my best effort.

Q: What is your favorite memory from qualifying for the Olympics?
David: Qualifying for the Olympics at the trials to stand on the first place podium. But also meeting the team that would go [compete in the Olympics] was very exciting for me and allowed me to feel like I was actually there and to have accomplished a great task. As I took a picture with the team, it was something that I wished my father had seen.