(Duluth, Ga.) - It's been just over three years since Brian Olson (Boulder, Colo. / NYAC / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center / 90kg) walked off the mat for the last time at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and his comeback was met at the U.S. Open on Friday with much anticipation.
"I came in with three years worth of rust, but now I feel like I'm down to about two and a half," Olson laughed after winning his sixth U.S. Open title. "It was definitely tough and I don't think I really started finding my rhythm until that last match, but it's hard trying to getting back to the person you were when you retired."
The person Olson "was" is definitely a hard act to live up to as the 34-year-old is a three-time Olympian and former World medalist.
"Really the only pressure I felt coming into this was from me," Olson said. "[Coach] Eddie [Liddie] and I talked about just wanting to get in here and get the old feeling back. Win, lose or draw, we wanted to see where I was at."
Olson won his first three matches to advance to the semifinals against Alexandre Emond (CAN). Although Emond was up on points throughout the match, Olson came back in the final minute to throw the Canadian for the win to advance to the gold medal round against top-ranked Garry St. Leger (Brooklyn, N.Y. / Starrett Judo), a bronze medalist at the Pan American Championships.
Twenty-two-year-old St. Leger didn't look the least bit intimidated during the final round, attacking consistently, but found himself down by a penalty before ultimately losing when Olson caught him with an armbar in the final minute.
"This being my first tournament back, to know that I'm not yet training five days a week on the mat and lifting every single day, but that I can still come back and win and get into the Trials means a lot. Getting into Trials is the first step. Now I just need to work on building from here," he said.
Olson's win virtually guarantees him a slot in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Judo, June 13-14 in Las Vegas , Nev.
The men's 81kg division featured a long-awaited rematch between Travis Stevens (Glenville , N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) and Aaron Cohen (Buffalo Grove, Ill. / NYAC / Cohen's Judo).
Last year Stevens beat Cohen for the first time in the finals of the Open - a win which would lead to three more during a single evening at the Senior Nationals and World Trials in April.
Now the #1 and reigning Pan American Games Champion, Stevens appeared to have the edge coming into their final match, but Cohen threw Stevens in the first minute for a koka (smallest points) and then countered his uchimata (inner thigh throw) three minutes into the match to pick up a yuko (quarter-point).
With less than 30 seconds left, Stevens threw Cohen for a waza-ari (half-point) with a sumi gaeshi (sacrifice throw), but the throw was downgraded by the side judges to a yuko score.
Both players picked up the pace, but Stevens didn't score again and Cohen won both the match and his first U.S. Open gold.
Ronda Rousey (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE) advanced to the finals of the 70kg division, as was expected, quickly and efficiently, ending each of her first two matches in less than a minute before defeating Gemma Gibbons (GBR) in the final with a throw for ippon (instant win)
The win is Rousey's third in as many years after taking the 2005 and 2006 titles in the 63kg division.
A silver medalist at the World Championships last month, Rousey was recognized for her achievement prior during Opening Ceremonies with a $10,000 award check.
One of Rousey's former opponents, 17-year-old Kayla Harrison (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE / NYAC) won her second U.S. Open title on Friday. After winning the Open division and earning a silver medal in the 70kg division last year, Harrison moved back down to 63kg in April and won her first Olympic weight title in the division. Ironically, Harrison 's opponent was the same as Rousey's in 2006 - Canadian Jennie Bonsant.
After a back-and-forth match in which Harrison scored after two minutes with a throw for a yuko, Bonsant took the match to the ground several times.
Harrison managed to escape the groundwork, but It wasn't until the last minute when she threw Bonsant again that she secured the win.
Heavyweight Heidi Moore (Englewood , Colo. / Denver Judo) won the +78kg division for her first U.S. Open title when she choked Brittni Bradford (San Antonio, Texas / Universal Judo) to win gold.
In the non-Olympic weight division of 44kg, 17-year-old Veronica Prado (Coral Springs, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami) won her round-robin division with three matches all by ippon (instant win). Among Prado's wins were throwing 2006 Champion Taylor Ibera (Honolulu, Hawaii / Hawaii Tenri) as well as 2007 Pan Am medalist Alexa Liddie (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) and a last-minute win against Katelyn Bouyssou (Hope, R.I. / Mayo Quanchi Judo).
Katie Mocco (Glenville, N.Y. / NYAC / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) advanced to her first U.S. Open final since moving from 70kg to 78kg.
Mocco secured her slot as the #1 U.S. player in the division when she placed second in the Senior B-Level Point Tournament behind two-time Pan American Champion Amy Cotton (CAN) who pinned Mocco early in the match.
Although she lost in the final, Mocco did earn a key win in the semifinals over 2007 Pan Am Championships medalist Marylise Levesque (CAN).
Daniel McCormick (Wakefield , Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE) won his first U.S. Open silver medal in the +100kg division. McCormick's most notable win was in the semifinals when he beat Alexandru Ciupe (CAN) by two penalties to three.
In the 100kg division, Keith Morgan (CAN) defeated his Canadian teammate Guillaume Cavali (CAN) in the first minute of their final match.
Colombian Santiago Martinez (Coral Springs , Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai) went to Golden Score (overtime) in his final against 2007 Senior National Champion Hiram Cruz (PUR) before throwing Cruz for a koka a minute into the Golden Score period.
Competition continues on Saturday with the women's 48kg, 52kg, 47kg and open divisions and the men's 60kg, 66kg, 73kg and open divisions.
Complete results are as follows:
1. Veronica Prado (Coral Springs, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami)
2. Katelyn Bouyssou (Hope, R.I. / Mayo Quanchi Judo Club)
3. Taylor Ibera (Honolulu, Hawaii / Hawaii Tenri)
3. Alexa Liddie (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center)
1. Kayla Harrison (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE / NYAC)
2. Jennie Bonsant (CAN)
3. Maude-Helene Benoit (CAN)
3. Marti Malloy (San Jose , Calif. / USA Judo National Training Site at San Jose State University)
5. Emilie-Claude Leroux (CAN)
5. Isabelle Pearson (CAN)
1. Ronda Rousey (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE / NYAC)
2. Gemma Gibbons (GBR)
3. Kathleen Sell (Harlingen, Texas / USA Judo National Training Site at Harlingen)
3. Megan Fletcher (GBR)
5. Sabrina Baron (CAN)
5. Anna-Soffia Vikingsdottir (ISL)
1. Amy Cotton (CAN)
2. Katie Mocco (Clifton Park, N.Y. / NYAC / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center)
3. Marylise Levesque (CAN)
3. Molly O'Rourke (El Cerrito, Calif. / East Bay Judo Institute)
5. Nina Cutro-Kelly (Schertz, Texas / Universal Judo)
5. Stephanie Grant (AUS)
1. Heidi Moore (Englewood, Colo. / Denver Judo)
2. Brittni Bradford (Live Oak, Texas / Universal Judo)
3. Melinda Swanson (Honolulu , Hawiaii / Hawaii Tenri)
3. Lorey Edwards (Avon, Ohio / Chu To Bu)
5. Andrea Bongert (Dubuque, Iowa / Sioux City)
5. Alyssa Coughy (CAN)
1. Santiago Martinez ( COL )
2. Hiram Cruz (PUR)
3. Julien Paradis (CAN)
3. Keith Beauvais (Thornton, Colo. / Northglenn Judo)
5. Steve Perez (Miami, Fla. / Ki-Itsu-Sai)
5. Joshua Villani (Bellevue, Wash. / Ippon Judo)
1. Aaron Cohen (Buffalo Grove, Ill. / NYAC / Cohen's Judo)
2. Travis Stevens (Scotia, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center)
3. Tyler Boras (CAN)
3. Harry St. Leger (Brooklyn, N.Y. / NYAC / Starrett Judo)
5. Andy Hung (San Jose, Calif. / USA Judo National Training Site at San Jose State University)
5. Kalem Kachur (CAN)
1. Brian Olson (Boulder, Colo. / NYAC / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center)
2. Garry St. Leger (Brookly, N.Y. / NYAC / Starrett Judo)
3. Alexandre Emond (CAN)
3. Rick Hawn (Eugene, Ore. / USA Judo National Team FORCE)
5. Fredrick Jaskiewicz (CAN)
5. David Ellis ( Roselle Park , N.J. / Cranford Judo)
1. Keith Morgan (CAN)
2. Guillaume Cavali (CAN)
3. Andrew Burns (GBR)
3. Christian Aarona (Waimanalo, Hawaii / Makiki Seid)
5. Shintaro Higashi (Scarsdale, N.Y. / NYAC / Kokushi Budo Institute of N.Y.)
5. Victor Jean-Baptiste (Brooklyn, N.Y. / NYAC)
1. Yasutaka Ohkawa (JPN)
2. Daniel McCormick (Arlington, Texas / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE)
3. Anthony Turner (Hialeah, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami)
3. Alexandru Ciupe (CAN)
5. James Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev. / San Jose State University Alumni)
5. Jonathan Leonhardt (San Jose, Calif. / USA Judo National Training Site at San Jose State University)
Results by Country
Place won | Point Value
Country name |Total|# 1 |# 2 |# 3 |
1. United States of America 24 6 6 12
2. Canada 10 2 2 6
3. Great Britain 3 0 1 2
4. Colombia 1 1 0 0
4. Puerto Rico 1 0 1 0
4. Japan 1 1 0 0