2008 Olympic Games Judo Preview
(Beijing, China) - With five of the 10 members of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team competing to Beijing as veterans of at least one previous Games, this year's Team brings experience from both past Team members as well as first-timers who have had extensive international success.
Competition begins on Saturday at the University of Science and Technology Beijing Gymnasium and can be viewed live in the United States at http://www.nbcolympics.com/.
Competition begins daily with preliminary sessions at noon and evening finals at 6 p.m. (including semifinals, repechage finals and bronze and gold medal matches.)
Below is a look at Team USA:
Unofficially dubbed "USA Judo's youngest veteran," Ronda Rousey (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE) was the youngest judo competitor from any country at the 2004 Games and returns at 21 as Team USA's youngest member again.
This time, however, Rousey has moved up a weight division from 63kg to 70kg and enters the Games as a #2 seed after winning a silver medal at the 2007 World Championships. Although she has only fought 70kg for a year and a half, Rousey has already amassed World Cup and Pan Am titles and established herself as a threat to become the first U.S. judo player ever to win gold at an Olympic Games.
While Rousey is the youngest Team member, 35-year-old Brian Olson (Boulder, Colo. / NYAC / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center / 90kg) is the oldest and will be competing on his fourth Olympic Team. A World medalist in 1997, Olson retired after the 2004 Games, but came back last year to compete for the one honor in that sport that has always eluded him - an Olympic medal.
Thirty-four-year-old Valerie Gotay (Harlingen, Texas /
USA Judo National Training Site at Harlingen) is the oldest member of the women's team. After qualifying for the 1992 Games at 18 in the 48kg division, Gotay retired from the sport after Barcelona. In 2004, Gotay made a remarkable comeback as a mother of two who earned a spot as an Olympic Team alternate in the 57kg division. Since then, Gotay has yet to lose a match against an American and has earned three Pan Am titles and been ranked as high as #6 in the world.
Taraje Williams-Murray (Bronx, N.Y. / NYAC / Spartak Sports Club) was the youngest male member of the 2004 Team at 19-years-old and returns to the 60kg division after winning his first Pan Am medal at this year's Championships in May where he earned a bronze.
Adler Volmar (Coral Springs, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami / 100kg) competed in his first Olympic Games as a 19-year-old in 1996 when he was the flagbearer for Haiti. Volmar began pursuing his dream of competing for Team USA, ultimately winning his first Senior National medal as a 90kg player in 2002 and competing as a member of his first U.S. Team at the 2007 Pan American Championships.
A two-time Olympic alternate behind former World Champion Jimmy Pedro, Ryan Reser (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) finally has the chance to pursue his own dreams of winning an Olympic medal in the 73kg division. Since assuming the #1 ranking in the United States after Pedro's retirement in 2004, Reser has won three Pan Am titles and two World Cup medals as well as world rankings in the top 10 in 2006 and 2007.
Like Reser, Sayaka Matsumoto (El Cerrito, Calif. / NYAC / East Bay Judo Institute) has waited a long time to fulfill her Olympic dreams. Although she won her first National Championship in 2000, the Team was selected based on past results and not on a Trials basis. By 2004, Matsumoto was a five-time National Champion, but fell just one slot short of qualifying the United States to compete in the 48kg division. A three-time World Team member, Matsumoto is looking forward to finally representing the United States at the Olympic Games.
Taylor Takata (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) also was favored to win an Olympic berth in 2004, but when the United States didn't qualify the 60kg division for Athens, Takata moved up to 66kg to compete at the Trials. Two weeks before the event, however, Cuba declined their slot and the United States accepted the entry. As the Trials were rapidly approaching, Takata decided not to cut back down to 60kg and lost to the eventual Olympian by two penalties in the Trials at 66kg. Since then, Takata has stayed at the heavier weight and the two-time 60kg Pan American Champion has won international medals in Europe and South America as the top-ranked U.S. player in the 66kg division.
Twenty-one-year-old Travis Stevens (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) broke through at 81kg in 2006 when he won the U.S. Open Championships for the first time. Stevens not only won his first Senior National title in 2007, but upset a 2004 Olympic medalist to win the Pan American Games three months later. A silver medalist at this year's Pan American Championships, Stevens is the youngest member of the men's Team and holds the potential to be one of the top finishers for Team USA both in Beijing as well as in 2012.
Daniel McCormick (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE) produced the biggest upset of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Judo in June when he defeated the top-ranked player in the division for the first time ever. And then he repeated the feat twice more for a total of three times in one night to win the Trials.
The complete team roster is as follows:
Sayaka Matsumoto (El Cerrito, Calif. / NYAC / East Bay Judo Institute)
Valerie Gotay (Harlingen, Texas / USA Judo National Training Site at Harlingen)
Ronda Rousey (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE)
Taraje Williams-Murray (Bronx, N.Y. / NYAC / Spartak Sports Club)
Taylor Takata (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center)
Ryan Reser (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center)
Travis Stevens (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center)
Brian Olson (Boulder, Colo. / NYAC / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center)
Adler Volmar (Coral Springs, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami)
Daniel McCormick (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE)