"I was born with 50% hearing loss in both ears. It's what they call sensory neural hearing loss, which means I am missing some of the nerves that conduct sound at certain frequencies,” Nina explained. “There's some frequencies I can hear as normal and there's some frequencies, I can't hear at all.”
But it never stopped her from competing at the highest level. “People often say to me, ‘It must be hard’ but I don't know what it's like to do it any other way. I had to adapt to it, and I don't know any other reality,” Nina said.
That reality drove her to another first when she competed at the Deaflympics this year, a global competition solely for the hearing impaired. Her performance earned her the title of Deaflympics Champion and stamped her name in the history books as the first American to ever do so.
While working to achieve these career-defining firsts on the Judo mat, Nina became an Olympian of sorts in her academic and professional pursuits as well.
“It’s important to not just focus on your sport. I cared about my career because I knew making a living with just Judo would be really hard,” she said.
If her unwillingness to give up is admirable then her professional resume is downright impressive: Double Bachelor’s in both Political Science and French, Master’s in Teaching and Applied Linguistics, ESL Teacher fluent in French, Class of 2022 MBA Candidate, and now Olympic Fellow.
Nina has taken the next step in her career, moving 1,500 miles from her home in San Antonio, Texas to chase the sun to the City of Angels where she has joined the legal team at LA28.
The Fellowship is a one-year program with six-month rotations through two different departments of the 2028 Olympic & Paralympic Organizing Committee. Bringing athletes into departments across the organization is contributing to LA28’s promise of delivering an athlete-centered Games.
“It feels good to know your contribution matters,” Nina said. “Everyone at LA28 is united in the mission to host another historical Games in LA and they value athlete input in every element of planning and that is pretty cool.”