(Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) - Jeanette Rodriguez (Coral Springs, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami) became a little bit older and a lot more credentialed when she turned 17-years-old and won bronze in the 48kg division on Sunday at the Pan American Games.
"As a birthday gift, this was pretty good. It could've been better if it were a gold, of course, but I'm happy," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez began her day with a win over Johana Orozoco (COL).
After three scoreless minutes, Rodriguez threw Orozoco; however the referees gave the waza-ari (half-point) score to the Colombian. Then they conferred and awarded the score to Rodriguez and continued the match for 30 more seconds at which time they reconvened and took the score away entirely.
Orozoco then immediately threw Rodriguez for a koka (smallest points) to take the lead, but Rodriguez was determined to get the win and threw Orozoco for a yuko (quarter-point) with just over 20 seconds remaining in the match.
In her next match with Zuleyma Garcia (ESA), Rodriguez was up by yuko and koka scores, but got thrown for a waza-ari in the last minute.
"That'll be the match I always remember," Rodriguez said. "I had it and then just did something stupid."
She rebounded in the repechage where she fought Gerdine Mathieu (HAI). Neither player was able to score until nearly the last minute when Rodriguez threw the Haitian for ippon with an o soto gari (outer leg throw).
"At first I was kinda bummed out after I lost in the second match, but I knew it was not over yet, that I still had a chance for bronze," Rodriguez said. "I knew I had to put my guts on the line and recover what I lost."
In the bronze medal match Rodriguez threw Glenda Miranda (ECU), a bronze medalist at the Pan Am Championships in May in Montreal for a yuko score in the fourth minute. The throw was originally deemed an ippon (instant win), but was then downgraded.
"I heard them say ippon and I was so relieved, but then my coach said it was a yuko and I was disappointed, but knew I had to keep going," Rodriguez said.
Although the match went the full five minutes, Rodriguez held Miranda off from larger scores and won her first Senior Pan Am medal.
"I told myself ‘that's it. You're not leaving home today without a bronze,'" she said.
The win also will give the United States valuable points toward qualifying the division for the 2008 Olympic Games as this event is the largest of five qualifying tournaments for athletes in the Pan American Region.
Rodriguez's medal also brings Team USA's total to six, including three golds, one silver and two bronzes - representing the best gold medal count for a USA Judo Team since the 1991 Games in Havana.
In other divisions, Justin Flores (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) and Taraje Williams-Murray (Bronx, N.Y. / NYAC / Spartak Sports Club) each placed seventh in the 66kg and 60kg divisions, respectively.
Flores threw Sasha Mehmedovic (CAN), a two-time Pan Am Championships medalist, in the first round for both waza-ari and then ippon in the fourth minute.
In the quarter-finals Flores was up by a koka and waza-ari when Roberto Ibanez (ECU) threw him for ippon halfway through the match.
Flores dropped down to the repechage, but lost to Ludwing Ortiz (VEN), a silver medalist at the 1999 and 2003 Pan American Games, by a penalty.
Williams-Murray was thrown after a first-round bye with a te guruma (hand wheel throw) by eventual champion Miguel Albarracin (ARG).
He took his first repechage match by a penalty given to Melvin Leocadio (DOM) in the last 25 seconds of the match.
Williams-Murray's next match ended with a penalty as well, but this one wasn't in his favor as he lost to Javier Guedez (VEN).
Grace Ohashi (Colorado Springs , Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) was competing on her first U.S. Team as an 18-year-old in the 52kg division. Although she forced
Melissa Rodriguez (ARG), the 2006 Pan Am Championships silver medalist, into two penalties and threw her for a koka, Ohashi ultimately was thrown for a waza-ari that would end the match.
Rodriguez lost her next match to eventual Champion Sheila Espinosa (CUB), eliminating Ohashi from the tournament.
Complete results are as follows:
1. Miguel Albarracin (ARG)
2. Yosvany Piker (CUB)
3. Alexandre Lee (BRA)
3. Javier Guedez (VEN)
5. Frazer Will (CAN)
5. Juan Postigos (PER)
7. Taraje Williams-Murray (Bronx , N.Y. / NYAC / Spartak Sports Club)
7. Douglas Arevalo (GUA)
1. Joao Derly (BRA)
2. Roberto Ibanez (ECU)
3. Yordanis Arencibia (CUB)
3. Ludwing Ortiz (VEN)
5. Juan Carlos Jacinto (DOM)
5. Felipe Novoa (CHI)
7. Justin Flores (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center)
7. Carlos Figueroa (ESA)
1. Yanet Bermoy (CUB)
2. Daniela Polzin (BRA)
3. Jeanette Rodriguez (Coral Springs, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami)
3. Paula Pareto (ARG)
5. Glenda Miranda (ECU)
5. Zuleyma Garcia (ESA)
7. Milagros Gonzalez (VEN)
7. Gerdine Mathieu (HAI)
1. Sheila Espinosa (CUB)
2. Erika Miranda (BRA)
3. Maria Garcia (DOM)
3. Flor Velazquez (VEN)
5. Adriana Negrete (MEX)
5. Melissa Rodriguez (ARG)
Also Competed: Grace Ohashi (Colorado Springs , Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center), 0-1