(Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) - An early look at the draw sheet for Valerie Gotay's (Temecula, Calif./57kg) potential lineup of opponents at Sunday's U.S. Open Judo Championships showed that it was going to be a long day - starting with an opening match against former World Championships bronze medalist Danielle Zangrando (BRA).
Gotay defeated the Brazilian in her first of three victories before the gold medal match where she met 19-year-old Marti Malloy (San Jose, Calif.), a bronze medalist at this year's National Championships.
Gotay threw Malloy quickly for yuko (quarter-point), but Malloy continued to fight well, scoring a yuko as well two minutes later, but couldn't hold off the 1992 Olympian who won the match by ippon (instant win).
"I knew it was going to be a tough day and that Marti would do well, but I was really surprised by how strong she was," Gotay said.
The win is Gotay's second medal in a week after taking bronze at last week's Rendez-Vous Canada. Earlier this month she placed ninth at the World Championships in Cairo and secured one of the top finishes for an American.
"I had a really hard time getting up for this tournament, coming off of Rendez-Vous last week and Worlds before that I wasn't really motivated coming into today, but I'm happy to have been able to pull everything together in the end," she said.
Fortunately for the 31-year-old, the U.S. Open is her last major tournament for the next few months before the European season begins in December.
"It's always really hard to leave your kids on another trip, so I'm looking forward to a break," Gotay said. "I'll still be training, but it'll be nice to be back home."
Veronica Prado (North Lauderdale, Fla./44kg) also won gold, defeating her Ki-Itsu-Sai Judo Club teammate Daimisy Porras (North Lauderdale, Fla.) in the first two matches of their round-robin.
In addition to Gotay and Prado, three other Americans qualified for the gold medal finals, with each laying claim to a silver medal.
Ryan Reser (Colorado Springs, Colo./73kg) was the victim of the finals upset of the day as he lost the final to rival Nicholas Tritton (CAN).
Reser and Tritton have fought against each other numerous times, including last week at the Rendez-Vous as well as last year's U.S. Open final, with Reser coming out on top every time until Sunday when Tritton won their five-minute match.
Reser and Gotay's World Championship teammate Taraje Williams-Murray (Brooklyn, N.Y.) was looking for his first U.S. Open title in his final match against James Millar (GBR), but loss on a close bout on a penalty.
Andrew Taylor (Plano, Texas) also had a close final match against Carlos Tenesaca (ECU), leading throughout before getting thrown for ippon with 45 seconds on the clock.
U.S. bronze medalists included: Ann Shiraishi (Elk Grove, Calif.), Sayaka Matsumoto (El Cerrito, Calif.), Carrie Chandler (Scotia, N.Y.), Hiram Cruz (Jacksonville, Fla.), Kenny Hashimoto (Northglenn, Colo.) and Radu Brestyan (Medway, Mass.)
Nicholas Tritton (CAN) and Alexandra Dumitru (ROM) were named as Outstanding Male and Female Players, respectively.
Results are as follows:
1. Veronica Prado (North Lauderdale, Fla.)
2. Daimisy Porras (North Lauderdale, Fla.)
1. Aluas Iona-Maria (ROM)
2. Kimi Suda (CAN)
3. Carrie Chandler (Scotia, N.Y.)
3. Jayne Clason (GBR)
5. Louise Renicks (GBR)
5. Franchesca Durand (North Lauderdale, Fla.)
1. Carlos Tenesaca (ECU)
2. Andrew Taylor (Plano, Texas)
3. Julien Paradis (CAN)
3. Hiram Cruz (PUR)
5. Jeremy Williams (CAN)
5. Enrique Cruz (MEX)
1. James Millar (GBR)
2. Taraje Williams-Murray (Bronx, N.Y.)
3. Philip Rogan (GBR)
3. Aarturo Ceniceros (MEX)
5. Juan Barahona (ECU)
5. Gonzalo Ibanez (CAN)
1. Roberto Ibanez (ECU)
2. Daniel Santos (BRA)
3. Kenny Hashimoto (Northglenn, Colo.)
3. Michal Popiel (CAN)
5. Taylor Takata (Brownsville, Texas)
5. Jean-Pierre Choy (North Lauderdale, Fla./PER)
1. Nicholas Tritton (CAN)
2. Ryan Reser (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
3. Alessandro Colli (BRA)
3. Radu Brestyan (Medway, Mass.)
5. Melvin Mendez (PUE)
5. Daniel Irvine (CAN)