Accomplished UCCS student scientist wins USA Judo gold

May 6, 2013

Jonathan Toman
[email protected]

UCCS has a new gold medalist.

Austin Cook, a junior biology major with a minor in chemistry, won the gold medal in the 66kg weight class at the USA Judo Senior National Championships on April 14 in Virginia Beach, Va.

Originally from Chapel Hill, N.C., Cook, 21, started judo when he was 15 to assist his wrestling and “fell in love with the sport almost immediately.” That love started a track of winning that has continued until today.

He won the state championship and then won junior nationals at the age of 16. After that win, he was invited to train in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center, where he has been ever since.

Last summer, he took home a gold medal from the US Open and took silver at senior nationals last year. This year, winning gold at the senior nationals, Cook knew something was different.

“This year I truly believed that I was the best person in the nation at my weight,” Cook said. “I knew no one had worked harder than me.”

Despite the personal challenges, younger kids and upcoming junior judo players also motivated Cook.

“I wanted to show them that if you pour your heart into something and give it your all, you can accomplish anything,” Cook said.

“Despite challenges that come up or difficult living situations, I wanted to show them that if you have a dream and chase it hard enough, you will catch it.”

Outside of judo, Cook is involved in various extracurricular pursuits. At UCCS, he tutors chemistry and biology at the Science Center.

He does research in a UCCS biology lab as well, studying bacteria, and had a poster recently presented at the University of Colorado Medical School.

Over the summers, Cook does neurological research at Duke University. Last summer, Cook and two friends founded the LLC Youth Health Advancement Project, which “strives to promote youth health through nutrition, physical activity and various other strategies,” according to Cook.

They built a permanent obstacle course at a Boys and Girls Club. Cook is also a big brother for Big Brothers Big Sisters and works at the Penrose Hospital Emergency Room as a scribe.

Cook is optimistic about future possibilities.

“I want to become a doctor and continue to improve the health and education of the community,” he said. “I want to continue my research and be able to further our understanding of pathogenic microorganisms.”

Cook also wants to win an Olympic gold medal in judo at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.