Jack Hatton’s death leaves search for answers

Jack Hatton
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Jack Hatton brightened every gym he attended and had a bright future in judo.

But Hatton also had his down days.

“When Jack was up, he was way up,” Canadian judoka Zach Burt told reporter Tim Layden for an NBC Sports story. “When he was down, he was way down, almost drastically so.”

On Sept. 24, Hatton was found dead in the house he shared with other athletes in Wakefield, Mass. He left no note, but he had taken his own life. He was 24 years old.

The judo community responded with shock and support, quickly raising nearly $10,000 for his family through a GoFundMe campaign that went on to draw nearly $37,000.

Hatton was a strong contender for a place in the 2020 Olympics. If Olympic qualification ended today, Colton Brown would qualify as one of the top 18 athletes in his weight class who aren’t already qualified. The other qualification path is to give one spot per country to the highest-ranked judoka in any class. At the moment, that’s Adonis Diaz, who is 33rd in his class. At the time of his death, Hatton was ranked 30th in his class, and he had been ranked higher in the past.

The Hatton family’s search for answers started with the possibility of brain injuries, but they were unable to get a study for possible chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

In retrospect, a few incidents from Hatton’s last few months have troubled his family and friends. In August, at the world championships, he expressed concern about life after judo, an issue that arose in part because he had not been able to stick with college studies. In early September, he went for a hike with inadequate clothing and was found the next day suffering from hypothermia.

Hatton’s father, Mark, spoke with Jack the morning Sept. 23 and found him agitated, saying he needed to get out of the house where he was living. Mark suggested therapy, which they had discussed before.

“I know, Dad, I know,” Jack said.

But Jack bristled at the idea of contacting Kayla Harrison, a two-time Olympic champion who trained with him and has been open about struggling with depression and considering suicide. Sometime during the day, though, Jack did think of Harrison one of the last two searches on his phone was “Kayla Harrison mental health.”

READ: Harrison on MMA and judo careers

Harrison is one of many people who remember Hatton as a friendly teammate with a great sense of humor.

“Jack made me laugh every day,” Harrison said.

Layden’s story on Hatton, his family and friends is posted at NBCSports.com.

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No words could describe the amount of pride that the New York Athletic Club Judo Program had in knowing that Jack Hatton wore The Winged Foot. He embodied everything that athletes who represent the Club stands for: he was an ideal ambassador of the Club’s credo, both as an athlete and a person. No words will ever describe the amount of sorrow that we all share from Jack’s passing.  Jack once described how much of an honor it was for him to compete for the New York Athletic Club, but the greater honor was having our program, and lives, elevated by such a talented, genuine, and wonderful young man. He gave everyone affiliated with the NYAC reason to hope, reason to be proud, and reason to smile. We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the Hatton family, and we also extend our deepest appreciation for bringing Jack into our lives.

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