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Local Olympians receive send-off

Delpopolo, Vashkulat head for London Tuesday

United States Olympic judo team members Kyle Vashkulat, left, and Nick Delpopolo, right, stand with their club coach, former Olympian Jason Morris, at Sunday’s sendoff party at Morris’ judo center in Glenville. Vashkulat and Delpopolo left Tuesday for the start of the Olympic games in London.

United States Olympic judo team members Kyle Vashkulat, left, and Nick Delpopolo, right, stand with their club coach, former Olympian Jason Morris, at Sunday’s sendoff party at Morris’ judo center in Glenville. Vashkulat and Delpopolo left Tuesday for the start of the Olympic games in London. Photo by Rob Jonas.

— Jason Morris knows what it takes to reach the Olympics.

It's not all about ability. It's also about sacrificing time and money to make the most of that ability.

That's why the four-time Olympic judokan organized a special fundraising party Sunday, July 22, to give two of his Jason Morris Judo Center students, Nick Delpopolo and Kyle Vashkulat, a send-off before they go to London for the 2012 games. People donated money to off-set the training costs Delpopolo and Vashkulat accrued over the years.

"Once you make the Olympic team, all your training is paid for," said Morris. "But no one pays you for the four years of training you went through to make the Olympic team, so you're looking at a mountain of debt."

The debt, along with the pain and sweat, will all be worth it to Delpopolo and Vashkulat when they march into London's Olympic Stadium with the United States team during Friday's Opening Ceremony. Then, they will get down to business as they compete for the first men's judo gold medal in Olympic history.

"I'm excited," said Vashkulat, who is competing in the under 100-kilogram division. "I'm just a little anxious about getting there."

"I'm going to go to every event I can get to, meet every athlete that I can meet and talk to every media person I can while I'm over there," added Delpopolo, who competes in the 73kg weight class.

Morris -- a Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School graduate -- remembered what it was like when he made his first of four trips to the Olympics.

"When I went to Seoul (South Korea) in 1988, I was all business. I didn't take it all in. I was trying to win," said Morris. "But the Olympics isn't all about winning. There's so much more to it than winning. There's the cultural aspect. You get to meet people from all over the world, and you get to experience a different culture."

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