When you turn on your TV this summer to watch the pageantry and competition of the 2016 Olympic Games, you may recognize names like Michael Phelps, Carmelo Anthony, or Alex Morgan. But despite being ranked #1 in the country at his sport of judo and boasting over 25,000 Facebook likes, you may not yet know Nick Delpopolo. Nick Delpopolo, a migrant born in Montenegro, is a true exemplar of what the American Dream constitutes to thousands of people. While Nick has been training for gold since he was 5, it is an anomaly that he has even had the chance. The first years of Nick’s life were spent in an orphanage in Montenegro, living in poverty. With an uncertain future, Nick was adopted by Dominic and Joyce Delpopolo and brought to the U.S, an opportunity that forever changed his life. Most living in poverty never get the chance for a better life. While many seek it for themselves and family, there are a host of obstacles facing them. Nicks journey from an orphanage in Montenegro to wearing the stars and stripes of the USA at the Olympics can help provide a glimmer of hope for the American dream that still exists. As he represents the U.S this summer he is one of an astounding 44 immigrants representing the country and positively contributing to its efforts. Nick works to inspire young competitors in judo and shows that no matter where you begin, you can have a positive impact in your new country.
Below is an interview with Nick who competed on August 8th and finished 7th overall. Read below a Q&A with Nick held just before the Olympics:
Nick Delpopolo Q&A
Q: This summer in Rio you will be representing the U.S judo team at the Olympics seeking gold. As you put on the new gear and see your dream becoming reality, how does it feel to represent the U.S In your hunt for gold?
A: It feels amazing and I'm definitely trying to take a lot more time to appreciate it this second time around. I am feeling very nostalgic and thankful to my family, Coaches, Sponsors and girlfriend who are every bit a piece of this Olympic Team.
Q: You’re currently ranked #1 in the sport of Judo in the U.S. What does it mean to you to have young competitors in the sport looking up to you as the nation’s best?
A: I work with kids a lot and I remember being a kid myself and looking up to the older elite athletes. I remember how cool it would make me feel when they would spend a few extra minutes talking to me and I try to do the same for the kids that look up to me now. I'm constantly giving away my Gis, Olympic apparel and memorabilia to kids to help inspire them for the future and it means a lot to me to have the privilege of being able to do that.
Q: While you were very young when you lived in Montenegro, you have made a remarkable journey to become a U.S Olympian. What do you think your story says to those, old and young, who hope for a better life migrating to the U.S?
A: I think I'm living proof that you can truly live the American Dream no matter what the circumstances are that you bring you to America, It truly is the land of opportunity.
Q: As the whole world watches this summer, how do you think your journey and the spirit of the Olympics can provide hope to those facing challenges across the world?
A: The International Judo Federation has a slogan "Judo: more than sport" and I truly believe that that's what the Olympics are all about. It brings the world together in unity, spirit of sport and gives hope and inspiration to many in tough times. People get to see Olympians and learn their back stories and see how many of them rose up through difficult circumstances to earn their places in Rio and it's an experience of a lifetime for not just the athletes but those who are cheering loudly from all across the world.
Q: When people see you compete for the U.S this summer, they may have no idea about your humble beginnings. How does it feel representing one of the 44 foreign born members of Team U.S.A this year?
A: I feel extremely fortunate and humbled that I was given this opportunity in life. I feel that I am not only competing for the U.S. but for Montenegro as well and I am proud of the Montenegrin blood flowing through me. I represent that a kid from an orphanage in a small village can make it to the highest level of sport and I want the people of Montenegro to know that I fight for them as well and I love my heritage.