Judo Olympic medalist coaching an Olympic hopeful in Fond du Lac

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FOND DU LAC, Wis. (WBAY) Judo's a popular worldwide sport in which a fighter uses the other person's weight and leverage against them.

Fond du Lac's Lauren De Smidt took it up at a young age after struggling at gymnastics.

The 18-year-old ranks first as a junior in the U.S. and 5th among all U.S. competitors in her weight class.

"I didn't win nationals like right away, I took years and years, I like that, I like to be challenged," said De Smidt.

Her coach knows the challenge. Lynn Roethke won a silver medal in judo in the 1988 Games in Seoul, South Korea.

But Roethke say's experiencing the successes and failures is tougher as a coach.

"It's almost like reliving some of those things again but looking at it from the outside and really knowing how important they are and how much they mean," said Roethke.

De Smidt says she's focused on getting into the top 16 worldwide in her weight class to qualify for the 2020 olympics by continuing to compete internationally.

"Only way you're going to get better is to face them, fight them and try to get better," said De Smidt.

It's not the only thing De Smidt is focused on though.

Outside of the mat the De Smidt and Roethke have something else in common. That's attending UW-Fond du Lac.

The business classes Roethke took at UW Fond du Lac helped her open Club Olympia in Fond du Lac 20 years ago. The gym now has 500 members and features judo.

De Smidt hopes to be a nurse.

"I take a lot of my classes online, which is really nice when I'm traveling," De Smidt said. "I can still complete all my schoolwork because I still want to have a degree when I'm done with Judo,"