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At the age of 6, my father and sensei, Tony Anaya, introduced me to the art of Judo. He began teaching me basic moves on our living room carpet and by the age of 9, my father enrolled me in our dojo, Judo Clubs Inc. This is where serious training began and a judo future was born.
Darlene Anaya throwing opponent with an ippon seoi nage
I recall my first competition at age 9, where I placed 3rd in my division. I did not enjoy the feeling of losing so I vowed thereafter to train hard to win first place. I believe my father observed I possessed a fighting spirit and love of competition.
Darlene Anaya in an international competition
My Judo career encompassed 20 years of training and competing at an elite level. I traveled all over the world with my best friends and fellow judo athletes, Margie Castro and Christine Penick. We met many individuals from various countries and cultures through our travels.
In 1979, I received a telephone call from Sensei Pomerelle, inviting me to compete in an International tournament in Mexico City, where I took the gold medal. Sensei Pomerelle took an interest in my Judo career and joined forces with my father in coaching me.
I have only one regret in my Judo career of not making it to the Olympics. In 1988, my father became very ill and his illness forced the closure of our dojo. At the end of my judo career, I felt a sense of emptiness and loss. I was uncertain what my future would consist of. In 1989, I continued my competitive spirit by joining a women’s softball team until I suffered a torn rotator cuff.
In 1992, I was accepted to the Albuquerque Police Academy and became an Albuquerque Police Officer (APD). In 1995, I was shot in the line of duty receiving the Purple Heart. After being shot I continued my police career by working as a Crimes Against Children Detective, with APD. During my tenure as a detective I was introduced to my daughter, whom I adopted in 2000. My daughter is now 20 years old and studying to become an Early Childhood Teacher. I retired from the Albuquerque Police Department in 2002, but continued my police service with other agencies until April of 2018. I am currently working for a contractor at Sandia National Labs.
My Judo career consists of 106 tournaments as follows:
I earned 17 National gold medal titles, 5 International gold medal titles, and 1 World Championships bronze medal title, in Vienna Austria.
In 1983, I made history being the first USA woman to win a gold medal in the 48 kg division in the 1983 Pan American Games, held in Caracas, Venezuela. This was quite an experience. I will never forget standing on the podium to receive my gold medal and the playing of the United States National Anthem while the American flag was being raised. My name is in the 1983 World Almanac, under the Judo category, for winning the gold medal in that year’s Pan American Games.
I have received several awards as follows:
The City of Albuquerque awarded me the “Darlene Anaya Day”, on August 5, 1983.
I give thanks to my father, Sensei Tony Anaya, who passed away in 2007, for my successful career in Judo and Sensei Pomerelle, who believed in my talent and spirit. Thanks to my family and fellow Judokas who sacrificed their time and energy to help me succeed in my Judo career. Special thanks to God for guiding me to excel in the talent he gave me.