(Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) - Since she was a child, Ronda Rousey (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE) has had her eyes on one thing - winning gold at the Olympic Games.
On Friday, Rousey came one step closer when she won the gold medal in the Pan American Games in the 70kg division, marking her third international medal (and second gold) in as many tries after moving up from 63kg in February.
In front of a boisterous hometown crowd, Rousey fought Brazilian Mayra Silva in the gold medal match after winning her three preliminary rounds all by ippon (instant win).
Rousey was up by a yuko (quarter-point) when she received a penalty late in the match that gave Silva a koka (smallest points) score. Rousey continued to attack as the clock wore down and threw Silva for ippon with an uchimata (inner thigh throw) with 16 seconds left in the match.
Taking the mat in the second medal match of the day, it was the home crowd's first chance to see a Brazilian fight for gold in a day that included three members of the Brazilian team competing in gold medal matches and a fourth fighting for bronze.
"Walking up there, the crowd was a little intimidating, but by the time I bowed in I was fine and didn't let it effect me while I was out there," Rousey said. "Honestly, I'd be upset if no one booed or cheered because that would mean they really don't care at all."
Although this is Rousey's first Pan Am Games, at 20-years-old she is a veteran of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team and the 2005 World Team.
"It feels really good to have won. The atmosphere is so similar to the Olympics that it's good to get a small taste of that," Rousey said. "Ever since I was a little girl, the Olympics have always been my #1 priority and this put me that much closer to my goal."
Rousey will return with her most of her Pan Am Games Teammates to Rio from Sept. 13-16 to compete in the World Championships.
"I'm still new to the division, but I think I can surprise some people," she said.
Rick Hawn (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE) also is a veteran of the 2004 Olympic Team who was competing in his first Pan Am Games, winning bronze after moving up in March from 81kg to 90kg.
After winning his first match against Javier Terra (URU), Hawn advanced to the semifinals, where he lost to eventual champion Tiago Camilo (BRA).
In the bronze medal match, Hawn threw Julian Gutierrez (MEX) for a waza-ari (half-point) score before pinning him for ippon.
"I felt very confident going into my match with Mexico . I fought him at the Pan Am Team Championships and beat him there, so I knew his style and was ready for whatever he had... And I finished with a pin, so Coach Pedro should be happy," Hawn laughed in reference to the personal coach of both himself and Rousey, former World Champion Jimmy Pedro (Methuen, Mass.) who also coaches the USA Judo Elite U-23 Team.
Fifteen-year-old Marina Lambert (Chesapeake, Va. / Washington Judo) also fought for bronze in the 78kg division, but was thrown for ippon by Lorena Briceno (ARG), a veteran of the sport who won her first Pan Am Games medal in 1999 when Lambert was only 7-years-old.
Earlier in the day, Lambert nearly upset former Pan Am medalist Marylise Levesque, double-legging the Canadian for a yuko score, but then Levesque took Lambert to the ground, pinning Lambert and then choking her for the win.
Lambert came back in the repechage to defeat Kelvi Pinto (VEN), a 2003 Pan Am Games medalist, by a yuko to advance to the bronze medal match.
Lambert has fought and won Pan American junior tournaments, but has competed as a senior internationally for less than a year.
"It's been hard because even though you're fighting people from the same country, they've been through a whole lot more and it's much more intense," Lambert said.
Adler Volmar (Coral Springs, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami) had a first-round bye in the 100kg division before fighting Oreidis Despaigne (CUB) in the quarter-finals.
Despaigne was up by a yuko scored off two of Volmar's penalties when he took Volmar down and pinned him in the final 30 seconds of the match.
In the repechage, Volmar earned three penalties to Orlando Baccino's (ARG) two when both athletes were given another with 28 seconds on the clock to end the match with a win for Baccino.
Tomorrow, competition continues at Rio Centro Pavilion 4 with Ryan Reser (Colorado Springs , Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center / 73kg), Travis Stevens (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center / 81kg), Marti Malloy (San Jose, Calif. / USA Judo National Training Site at San Jose State University / 63kg) and Valerie Gotay (Harlingen, Texas / USA Judo National Training Site at Harlingen / 57kg).
Complete results are as follows:
1. Ronda Rousey (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE)
2. Mayra Aguiar (BRA)
3. Catherine Roberge (CAN)
3. Yuri Alvear (COL)
5. Onix Cortes (CUB)
5. Maria Rojas (VEN)
1. Edinanci Silva (BRA)
2. Yurisel Laborde (CUB)
3. Lorena Briceno (ARG)
3. Marylise Levesque (CAN)
5. Mirla Gua-Nolberto (GUA)
5. Marina Lambert (Chesapeake, Va. / Washington Judo)
1. Tiago Camilo (BRA)
2. Jorge Benavides (CUB)
3. Rick Hawn (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE)
3. Jose Camacho (VEN)
5. Alexis Chiclana (PUR)
5. Julian Gutierrez (MEX)
1. Oreydis Despaigne (CUB)
2. Keith Morgan (CAN)
3. Luciano Correa (BRA)
3. Teofilo Diek (DOM)
5. Orlando Baccino (ARG)
5. Albenis Rosales (VEN)
Also Competed: Adler Volmar (Coral Springs, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami), 0-2