Rousey began judo with her mother at the age of 11. Rousey trained with her mother until she was 13 after accidentally breaking her mother’s wrist. At 17, Rousey qualified for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, becoming the youngest judoka in the entire Games. Rousey lost in her first match to silver medalist Claudia Heill in the 63 kg bracket. Also in 2004, Rousey won a gold medal at the World Junior Judo Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
In April 2006, she became the first female U.S. judoka in nearly 10 years to win an A-Level tournament as she went 5-0 to claim gold at the Birmingham World Cup in Great Britain. Later that year, the 19-year-old won the bronze medal at the Junior World Championships, becoming the first U.S. athlete ever to win two Junior World medals.
In February 2007, Rousey moved up to 70 kg where she ranked as one of the top three women in the world. She won the silver medal at the 2007 World Judo Championships in the middleweight division and the gold medal at the 2007 Pan American Games.
In August 2008, Rousey competed at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. She lost her quarterfinal to the Dutch ex-world champion Edith Bosch but qualified for a Bronze medal match through the repechage bracket. Rousey defeated Annett Boehm by Yuko to win a bronze medal (note: judo offers two bronze medals per weight class). With the victory, Rousey became the first American to win an Olympic medal in women’s judo since its inception as an Olympic sport in 1992.