“President Theodore Roosevelt’s wife and sister-in-law are among the first American women known to practice judo, but Braziel was among the first to dominate it,” writes Leilana McKindra in her profile of Polytechnic Institute of NYU’s Maureen Braziel.
Ms. Braziel has been NYU-Poly’s athletic director for eleven years; she joined the school in 1982 and served as assistant athletics director from 1987 to 1997. Before and during her time at NYU-Poly, Ms. Braziel has made incredible strides in judo – as an athlete and as a trailblazer for the sport itself.
Some highlights from NCAA Champion magazine’s “This Black Belt is a Throwback”:
- [Ms. Braziel] was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the East Coast from 1967 to 1977 and the first U.S. Grand Champion, a title she won three times. She also was the first American and the first foreign competitor to capture the British Open, the largest international judo competition for many years.
- “My dream was the Olympics, but I wasn’t in the right spot at the right time,” she said. “As an athlete, it’s hard to walk away. Sometimes you have to know when to stop, but all the energy I had, I put into what we have [at Polytechnic] – and it worked.”
- Braziel has overseen the men’s and women’s judo program she launched shortly after her arrival at Polytechnic 27 years ago. Though mostly a club sport at other institutions, it’s a varsity program at Polytechnic.
- These days, much of Braziel’s involvement in the sport takes place on campus and through a local judo organization. Though she misses competing, she appreciates what she was able to accomplish. “I competed for a long time. I did a lot of firsts,” she said. “I miss it, but it’s nice to know you did something and as a pioneer.”