(Colorado Springs, Colo.) - After competing at the Sweden Open last weekend in Borras, a contingent of U.S. players traveled to Vantaa, Finland on Thursday to compete in the Finnish Open, a USA Judo Senior B-Level Point Tournament.
Competition begins on Saturday with the women's 48kg, 70kg, 78kg and +78kg divisions and the men's 60kg, 73kg, 90kg and +100kg divisions. Competition continues on Sunday with the women's 52kg, 57kg and 63kg divisions and the men's 66kg, 81kg and 100kg divisions.
Nineteen players who fought in Sweden will be joined by three additional Americans, two of whom won medals at the Benito Juarez Championships in Mexico last weekend and two more who are training in France.
Among the U.S. competitors, all three of the Sweden Open bronze medalists will be fighting again.
Michael Eldred (Fruitland, Idaho / Western Idaho Judo Institute) will be going for his fifth B-Level medal in the 73kg division this season and his fourth consecutive trip to the podium after winning bronze medals during the past three weeks in Sweden as well as at the Rendez-Vous Canada and the U.S. Open.
Eldred will be competing in a 33-person division along with three of his U.S. Teammates. Radu Brestyan (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE) and Nick Delpopolo (Glenville, N.Y. / NYAC / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) both won two matches and lost their third last week. Two-time Pan American Champion Chuck Jefferson (San Jose, Calif. / USA Judo National Training Site at San Jose State University) also will be competing after losing in the first round in Sweden.
Adler Volmar (Coral Springs, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami / 100kg) won his first major European medal with his bronze in Sweden. After a first-round bye, Volmar needs only a second round win against Villepetteri Lammasaniemi (FIN), a junior player who won a medal at this tournament in 2006, to guarantee continued advancement in the 20-person division. Aaron Handy (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE), a fifth-place finisher at the British Open in January who lost in the first round in Swede, also will be competing in the division.
Anthony Turner (Miami, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami / +100kg) beat former U.S. National Champion and Pan Am medalist Joel Brutus (HAI) to win bronze in Sweden and stands to be a favorite for another trip to the medal rounds in a 10-person division in which he holds a first-round bye.
Marti Malloy (San Jose, Calif. / USA Judo National Training Site at San Jose State University), a ninth-place finisher at the World Championships in September, placed fifth in her first trip to the Swedish Open on Sunday. Malloy will be fighting again in the 63kg division this weekend where she could have a semifinal match against Hannah Wahlberg (SWE) whom she lost to in the bronze medal match in Sweden. Senior Nationals medalist Emily Lilly (Camarillo, Calif. / Sawtelle) has a first-round match against Emilie-Claude Leroux (CAN) after losing in the first round in Sweden.
The #1 and #2-ranked 48kg players in the United States both placed fifth in Sweden and will be on the same side of the draw in Vantaa. Top-ranked Jeanette Rodriguez (Coral Springs, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami) will fight Anniina Jokinen (FIN) in the first round and could face Oiana Blanco (ESP), a fifth-place finisher at the Hamburg Super World Cup, in the quarter-finals. Seven-time National Champion Sayaka Matsumoto (El Cerrito, Calif. / NYAC / East Bay Judo Institute) will fight Durya Cibir (TUR), a player she beat in Sweden, in the first round and Virge Tahemae (EST) in the quarter-finals. Should both players win their first two matches, they would fight in the semifinals. Rodriguez's record against Matsumoto for the year is 3-2, including a win during their last match at the Rendez-Vous. Ann Shiraishi (El Cerrito, Calif. / East Bay Judo Institute) placed seventh in Sweden and will be fighting on the opposite side of the bracket, along with Bianca Ockedahl (CAN), who beat Rodriguez en route to winning gold in Sweden, and Malin Nordin (SWE) who beat Rodriguez to win bronze last week.
Katie Mocco (Glenville, N.Y. / NYAC / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) opted to compete at the Benito Juarez in lieu of the Swedish Open and won her first international gold medal in the 78kg division.
Mocco and Nina Cutro-Kelly (San Antonio, Texas / Universal Judo), who is currently living and training in France, have flip-flopped the #1 U.S. ranking in the division with Mocco earning the top slot after her silver medal win at the U.S. Open three weeks ago. Cutro-Kelly took the #1 after placing second the following weekend at the Rendez-Vous Canada and whichever athlete places higher in Finland will be the new #1.
The two will be guaranteed to fight each other as 78kg will be a five-person round robin division. Cutro-Kelly won two of their last three matches at the Fall Classic National Championships in September, but, although they were both at the Open and Rendez-Vous, being on opposite sides of the draw meant they didn't meet up.
World silver medalist Ronda Rousey (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE / NYAC / 70kg) didn't advance out of the preliminary rounds in Sweden, but in a division of nine players, Rousey only needs two wins to guarantee a medal.
Pan American Games Champion Travis Stevens (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) placed seventh last week and will likely fight two of his opponents from Sweden in his first two matches after a first-round bye. Stevens beat both Giorgi Gurashvili (GEO) and Tyler Boras (CAN) last week and is a favorite to advance to the medal rounds in Finland.
Taylor Takata (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center), the new #1 in the 66kg division, placed third in Mexico and is traveling to Europe after returning to Colorado to train. Takata and former National Champion Justin Flores (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) will be on opposite sides of the 31-player draw. Flores, a fifth-place finisher at the Warsaw World Cup in March, lost in the first round in Sweden.
Landry Ambouroue (Dallas, Texas / Ruben Martin Judo), a 2006 National medalist in the 90kg division, fell out of the top five in 2007, but recently relocated to France to focus on training. A top five placing in a 22-person division would move Ambouroue into the #4 U.S. ranking.
Janine Nakao (San Jose, Calif. / USA Judo National Training Site at San Jose State University) surprised many when she had a solid run in Sweden, ending with a seventh-place finish with a 3-2 record in the 57kg division. Nakao has the potential to advance into the medal rounds in Finland while her teammates Angelica Delgado (Miami, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami) and Hannah Martin (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) also will be competing and the Senior Nationals medalists will be looking to improve on their 0-1 finishes in Sweden.
Nick Kossor (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) lost in the first round of the 60kg division last week and will be fighting in a nine-person division this week. Watch out for a potential semifinal between Kossor and Gonzalo Ibanez (CAN) who beat Kossor in the bronze medal match at the Rendez-Vous Canada.