(Beijing, China) - Six up-and-coming judo players traveled with Team USA to Beijing on Friday to work out with the Olympians and prepare for what to expect as they train for the Olympic Games in 2012.
"These young athletes will work out with the Team, experience the atmosphere and learn about everything that goes into the Olympics so that in 2012 they will be ready not just to participate, but also to look to take a medal," said USA Judo Director of Athlete Performance Eddie Liddie (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
The six athletes include:
- Marti Malloy (San Jose, Calif. / USA Judo National Training Site at San Jose State University), ninth-place finisher at the 2007 World Championships in the 63kg division
- Kayla Harrison (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE), National Champion at 70kg in 2006 and 78kg in 2008.
- Ann Shiraishi (San Francisco, Calif. / East Bay Judo Institute), 2008 Senior National Champion in the 52kg division and 2008 Olympic Team alternate at 48kg
- Jeremy Liggett (Glenville, N.Y. / NYAC / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center), 2008 Olympic Team alternate at 66kg and 2006 Pan Am silver medalist at 60kg
- Michael Eldred (Fruitland, Idaho / Western Idaho Judo Institute), five-time international medalist in 2007 at 73kg
- Garry St. Leger (Brooklyn, N.Y. / NYAC / Legrosports Starrett), two-time National Champion at 90kg
"We ran a similar program in 2004 and two of the players from that group are among the five who will be fighting for the first time in Beijing," Liddie said. "The program is designed to allow these players to experience all of the behind-the-scenes aspects of the Games so they won't be overwhelmed in 2012."
In 2004, current Olympic Team members Ryan Reser (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center / 73kg) and Sayaka Matsumoto (El Cerrito, Calif. / NYAC / East Bay Judo Institute / 48kg) were among the athletes who lived at the American College of Greece during the Athens Games and trained with the U.S. Team.
"It was one of the best experiences I could have had," Reser said. "We went through everything except, obviously, competing, but it was great for us to be able to see everything that goes into the Olympics and kind of know what's coming in advance."
In addition to the six Operation 2012 athletes, reigning 73kg National Champion Bobby Lee (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE) will be serving as a training partner with Team USA as well. Lee, a teammate of World silver medalist Ronda Rousey (NYAC), was selected as an additional training partner by Rousey and was funded through Rousey's USA Judo / U.S. Olympic Committee elite athlete training fund.