Posted at: 07/24/2012 11:20 PM
| Updated at: 07/25/2012 7:13 PM
By: Dan Bazile
COLONIE -- Checking in at Albany International Airport and on their way to board the plane, young fans surrounded Nick Delpopolo and Kyle Vashkulat. Moments later they were signing autographs. That's what can happen when you become an Olympian.
"The press is great of course. I love it. People recognizing you," said Vashkulat.
"I'm excited. I feel great. But I'm still trying to focus on the competition," Delpopolo added.
The competition is Judo. It's something these two judoka have been doing since they were kids growing up in Burnt Hills. They're both graduates of Burnt Hills High School. Now it's off to the big stage, the Olympics in London, where the whole world will be watching. They say the only thing better than being an Olympian is to come home with a gold medal.
"It's the Superbowl for Judo. If you want to be a judoka, a world class judoka, you want to make the Olympics," Delpopolo said.
As they go across the pond, the two judoka will be focusing on the competition. They've fought some of their opponents before and they're feeling pretty confident they can bring home a medal. But the pressure is on since their coach, Jason Morris, out of Glenville, is a Olympic silver medalist.
"The pressure is on for Nick because he fights on the 20th anniversary of when Jason won the medal," said Vashkulat.
The pressure also comes from pride for a country they say did not make them feel like foreigners. Vashkulat is originally from Ukraine and Delpopolo was born in Montenegro, the former Yugoslavia.
"America gave me all this opportunity. They allowed me to do Judo. They allowed me to have citizenship, great life. Now I can really give back," Delpopolo said.
They're hoping to bring home a gold medal, something no judoka from the United States has ever done before. Delpopolo competes on July 30th. Vashkulat takes the stage on August 2nd.