U S Judo
JUDO: Pan American Championships Day 1 Preview (Miami, Fla.) – The question heard most often this week at the James L. Knight Center continues to be “How’s your division? Have you qualified yet?”
With the Pan American Championships beginning on Thursday, so too begins the final opportunity for athletes from more than 20 nations to qualify for Beijing.
The Pan Am Championships will begin on Thursday with the men’s and women’s lightweight divisions.
Friday will include the men’s and women’s heavyweight divisions. Competition will begin at 10 a.m. with preliminary rounds and gold and bronze medal rounds at 6 p.m.
In order to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, a nation must be ranked in the top three women or top six men in the Pan American region – not including countries whose athletes placed in the top five at the 2007 World Championships. The qualification process began at the 2006 Pan Ams in Buenos Aires and continued with the 2007 Pan Ams in Montreal and the 2007 Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro. This year’s qualifying events also include a series of Zone Cups. The region is divided into three zones of approximately 15 nations or less each. The Zone Cups each hold slightly less than the same weight in the rankings as the Pan Am Championships. The United States, Mexico, Canada and Cuba are among the 13 nations in Zone 1 who will compete on Sunday. Athletes in Zone 2 and 3 (South and portions of Central America) have already held their events in Venezuela and Argentina earlier this year.
A preview of the divisions and the current rankings of Team USA are as follows:
The United States is currently ranked fifth in the division and will need to advance two rankings to qualify for Beijing. Ronda Rousey (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE) started out the series well with her 2006 Pan Am silver medal, but after she moved up to 70kg in 2007, Pan Am rookies Kristen Allan (Springfield, Va. / Sport Judo) and Marti Malloy (San Jose, Calif. / USA Judo National Training Site at San Jose State) moved into the Team USA slots at the 2007 Pan Am Championships and Games, respectively, where they both placed fifth. This time, Malloy has had more than a year in her new division and has become a stronger player – as was evidenced by her ninth place finish at the 2007 Worlds. Cuban Driuilis Gonzalez (63kg) won her third World title in 2007 and, although she will be competing at the Pan Ams, has already qualified Cuba in the division. Former World Champion Daniela Krukower (ARG) holds the #1 ranking in the division and it appears that Malloy and players from Brazil, Puerto Rico and Venezuela all will be fighting for the remaining two slots. Also watch out for Marie-Helene Chisholm (CAN). A fifth-place finisher at the 2004 Olympic Games and 2005 World Championships, Chisholm was injured in 2007 and had to relinquish qualifying duties to teammate Isabelle Pearson who did not earn placing points last year.
Ronda Rousey (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE) had the stress of qualifying the division removed in 2007 when she won silver at the World Championships. Although Rousey was in a solid position after placing third in Montreal and winning the Pan Am Games, she no longer needs to worry about rankings and can focus on winning her fourth Pan Am title. Rousey’s strongest challenger will be Yalennis Castillo (CUB) who is ranked third and will be fighting hard to keep fourth-place Catherine Roberge (CAN) from moving up.
Katie Mocco (Glenville, N.Y. / NYAC / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) placed third at her last Pan Ams in 2006, but that was in the 70kg division. Mocco has never fought at the Pan Ams as a 78kg player and competition will be stiff. Two-time World Champion Yurisel Laborde (CUB) may have already qualified the division for Cuba, but she will be a road block to many competitors – as will Edinanci Silva (BRA) who has won the last three Pan Ams, but just missed qualifying at the Worlds with a seventh-place finish. With an insurmountable point spread, Silva can’t be caught on the roster, leaving Mocco and players from Argentina, Canada and Guatemala, which jumped up after Mirla Nolberto placed second in Zone 2 just over a month ago, fighting for the second and third rankings.
Although she fought in the Open division last year at the Pan Ams, Heidi Moore (Englewood, Colo. / Denver Judo) will be fighting for the first time here as a heavyweight since 2005. As the United States has yet to place in this division during the qualifying series, earning a slot in Beijing will be difficult and Moore will need both Pan Am and Zone Cup wins to be in contention for the top three as none of the Pan Am heavyweights placed at the 2007 Worlds.
His Pan Am Games gold medal in 2007, virtually guaranteed Travis Stevens (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) a spot in the top six for the United States. Now Stevens will be looking to repeat the feat on home soil, but watch out for a match between Stevens and 2007 World Champion Tiago Camilo (BRA). Stevens defeated former Olympic medalist Flavio Canto (BRA) at the 2007 Pan Am Games and a match between Camilo and Stevens could be just as exciting.
Garry St. Leger (Brooklyn, N.Y. / NYAC / Legrosports Starrett) won bronze at the 2007 Pan Ams and, although the rankings place the United States as sixth in the division, the numbers are misleading as four of the higher ranked players have all competed in their Zone Cups and had the opportunity to earn the points St. Leger will pick up on Sunday in the Zone 1 Cup. Top-ranked Brazil has dominated the division for the past three Pan Ams and Eduardo Costa (BRA) could make it a fourth while Jose Camacho (VEN) and Jorge Benavides (CUB) have each won silver and bronze medals consistently.
In a small division, the qualifying picture was made even better in 2007 when Luciano Correa (BRA) won the Worlds and Oreidis Despaigne (CUB) placed third. Team USA is ranked fifth currently and will be represented by first-time team member Christian Aarona (Waimanalo, Hawaii / Makiki Seidokan Judo Club) who returned from retirement in 2007 when he placed third at the U.S. Open.
Anthony Turner (Miami, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami) will be competing on his first Pan Am Team since medaling in 2001, but will need to move up from seventh to sixth to qualify the division which is led by Cuba’s Oscar Brayson who hasn’t placed lower than second during the past three Pan Ams. Joao Schlittler removed Brazil from the equation in 2007 with his third place finish at the Worlds, opening another slot in a division where the United States, Honduras and Venezuela are all just points away from each other with the United States being the only one of the three not to have competed in a Zone Cup.
For more information, contact Nicole Jomantas, USA Judo Director of Communications and Media Relations, at 719.271.9937 (cell) or Nicole.Jomantas@usajudo.us.
FONTE: SFCPressPoint (press release) - Tampa,FL,USA