JUDO: Team USA Competes at Paris Super World Cup This Weekend

Feb. 08, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)
For Immediate Release February 8, 2008 Contact: Nicole Jomantas, 719.866.4732 Nicole.Jomantas@usajudo.us (Colorado Springs, Colo.)-Ten U.S. athletes will compete at one of the world's largest and most prestigious judo tournaments this weekend. Considered by many to be on par with the Olympic Games and World Championships, the Paris Super World Cup features multiple World and Olympic medalists in each division and will give athletes an early look at what competition will be like in Beijing. Competition will begin on Saturday with the men's 60kg, 66kg and 73kg and the women's 48kg, 52kg, 57kg and 63kg divisions. Competition will continue on Sunday with the men's 81kg, 90kg, 100kg and +100kg divisions and the women's 70kg, 78kg and +78kg divisions. Below is a preview of each division. Among the matches to watch out for are a potential 70kg quarter-final fight between World silver medalist Ronda Rousey (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE) and Masae Ueno (JPN) the 2004 Olympic and 2003 World Champion. Rousey and Ueno fought in the finals of the Kano World Grand Prix in December with Ueno winning in overtime. A complete breakdown of the divisions is as follows: Women's 48kg Seven-time World Champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist Ryoko Tani (JPN) is said to be in Paris this week, but will not be competing in the tournament. Instead Tani is reported to be working with neurological experts as part of a new method of training for the Beijing Olympic Games. In her absence, Tomoko Fukumi will be representing Japan. Fukumi made news last year when she upset Tani at the Japan National Championships-one of the few players in the world ever to do so. Yanet Bermoy (CUB), the 2005 World Champion who placed second at the 2007 Worlds to Tani, also will be competing. Bermoy has had difficulty during the last two Paris Super World Cups, placing fifth, but won a silver medal at the 2005 event. One of Bermoy's losses at the 2007 tournament came to three-time World and Olympic runner-up Frederique Jossinet (FRA) whose last win in Paris was in 2006. Jossinet also beat two-time World medalist Alina Dumitru (ROM) last year who is now ranked #1 in the world, but hasn't medaled in Paris since 2001. Women's 52kg Dongmei Xian (CHN) hasn't been seen in major competition since she won the 2004 Olympic Games, but looks to be back for another run this year. Top-ranked Telma Monteiro (POR) is a two-time World medalist who placed second in Paris in 2007. Misato Nakamura is one of Japan's up-and-coming junior players who placed third as a 17-year-old last year. Also returning from the 2007 Paris podium is Audrey La Rizza (FRA), the #3-ranked 52kg player in the world who lost to Monteiro twice in 2007 at both Paris as well as the European Championships where she placed second. Women's 57kg Valerie Gotay (Harlingen, Texas / USA Judo National Training Site at Harlingen) was hampered by injuries in Paris last year, placing ninth, but has experienced past success in Paris, winning a bronze medal as a 16-year-old at the 1990 event. Thirty-four-year-old Gotay, who retired after qualifying for the 1992 Olympic Team, returned to competition in 2004 and was ranked as one of the top six players in the world in 2007. Gotay's loss in the repecharge last year was to 2004 Olympic Champion Yvonne Boenisch (GER), currently the #2-ranked player in the world behind Isabel Fernandez (ESP), a former World and Olympic Champion. Boenisch and Fernandez have split most of their major matches and while Fernandez won the silver medal at the 2007 World Championships, Boenisch placed a surprising seventh. Known for being a defensive player, Fernandez and Gotay went five minutes at the Worlds in 2007 with a penalty each before Fernandez threw the American in Golden Score. Aiko Sato (JPN), a 2007 World medalist, and Sabrina Filzmoser (AUT), who won bronze at the 2005 Worlds, both will be looking to improve on their seventh-place finishes at the 2007 Paris event. Deborah Gravenstijn (NED), a two-time World medalist and 2004 Olympic medalist, has never won a medal in Paris, but, with 15 World Cup medals to her credit, she shouldn't be counted out. Women's 63kg Marti Malloy (San Jose, Calif. / USA Judo National Training Site at San Jose State University) had her best international result in September when she placed ninth at the World Championships, but she will be up against tough competition in a draw that includes multiple World and Olympic medalists as well as a crew of talented French players. As the host country, France may enter up to four competitors per division and a possibility of an all-French final always exists. Last year the gold and silver medalists were French teammates Virginie Henry and Lucie Decosse with Henry upsetting former World Champion Decosse in the final. A bronze medalist at the 2007 World Championships, Elisabeth Willeboordse (NED) had an outstanding European tour last year, winning medals at six World Cups, including two Super World Cup golds. Yoshie Ueno (JPN) hasn't competed in Paris since the 2006 tournament where she beat Willeboordse en route to the finals where she lost to Decosse. Urska Zolnir (SLO), the 2004 Olympic and 2005 World silver medalist, struggled with both Decosse and Willeboordse in 2007, losing to Decosse in the World semifinals and dropping her next match to Willeboordse for the bronze medal, but a good draw could put her in a favorable position in Paris. Women's 70kg World silver medalist Ronda Rousey (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE) won her only World Cup appearance in 2007, but will be in a division with nearly all of her top foes. Gevrise Emane (FRA) the reigning World Champion defeated Rousey in the finals of the Worlds in September. Rousey and Masae Ueno (JPN), the 2004 Olympic and two-time World Champion, had a close fight during their only match-up when Ueno threw Rousey for a yuko in overtime to win the Kano World Grand Prix in December. Ueno's win in the 2004 Olympic finals came over Edith Bosch (NED) who would later go on to win the 2005 World Championships. Bosch and Rousey fought twice in 2007 with Rousey taking both wins, including a spectacular throw for ippon in the final minute of their semifinal match at the World Championships. Bosch and Annett Boehm (GER), the 2004 Olympic and 2005 World bronze medalist, have had an exciting rivalry for several years with Bosch winning most of their matches, but Boehm defeated the Dutch player at the 2007 German Open where she also beat Rousey in a close preliminary match. Leire Iglesias (ESP) kicked off her 2007 European Tour with a win in Paris followed by two more World Cup golds and will be a player to watch this year as well, but she placed seventh at the Sofia World Cup two weeks ago where she lost her final match to Kerstin Thiele, Germany's young #2 70kg player who Rousey defeated at the Vienna World Cup in 2007. Yalennis Castillo returned as Cuba's top 70kg player in 2007 and is currently 1-1 in matches with Ronda who won their first match nearly a year ago while Castillo earned the win when they fought on Sunday in Belgium. The match was close, though, with both athletes scoring and Castillo earning the win off small points scored off a double-leg early in the match. Women's 78kg Nina Cutro-Kelly (San Antonio, Texas / Universal Judo) should feel at home at the Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy as she is currently living and training in France where she teaches at the University of Rennes. Two-time World Champion Yurisel Laborde (CUB) is the division favorite while World medalist Stephanie Possamai (FRA) comes in as the reigning Paris silver medalist. Possamai's teammate Celine Lebrun, a former World Champion, has fought Laborde often for the past seven years with both players taking key wins at major events. Women's +78kg With the last three World titles on her resume, China's Wen Tong is rarely beaten and tends to dominate her opponents. Sandra Koeppen (GER), a two-time World medalist, is one player who has beaten Tong in the past and is a veteran of the Tour with her last Paris final coming in 2002. Two-time World medalist Carola Uilenhoed (NED) and Anne-Sophie Mondiere (FRA) are both strong contenders as well. Modiere is a small heavyweight, but the three-time World medalist uses her speed to her advantage and has four European Championship titles to show for her efforts. Men's 60kg Aaron Kunihiro (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE) will be competing in his first Super World Cup in a division that should include at least two World and Olympic medalists. Ruben Houkes (NED) is the reigning World Champion and the top-ranked player in the world. Min-Ho Choi (KOR), a former World Champion and 2004 Olympic medalist, placed third in Paris last year-his third medal at the tournament since 2002. Davtyan Hovhannes (ARM) is the #3-ranked player in the world who won both the 2007 Moscow and Hamburg Super World Cups and was the runner-up at the 2007 European Championships. Men's 66kg One of the most technically sound U.S. players in this division, Kenny Hashimoto (San Jose, Calif. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) also will be competing in his first Super A-Level Tournament. Hashimoto has won B-Level medals in North America, but is still looking to break through in Europe. Internationally, 66kg is often considered the most exciting and much of that reputation can be accredited to the top two players in the world: Joao Derly (BRA) and Yordanis Arencibbia (CUB). Derly and Arencibbia fought in the finals of the World Championships as well as an early match at the Pan American Games with Derly winning both closely contested matches. Men's 73kg Michael Eldred (Fruitland, Idaho / Western Idaho Judo Institute) won five international medals in 2007, but will be competing in his first European Tour event as well. Ki-Chun Wang (KOR) became one of the young stars of the 2007 Worlds when he won the division just days after his nineteenth birthday. Koreans have long had success in this division and Wang appears to have picked up where 2004 Olympic Champion Won-Hee Lee left off. Elnur Mammadli (AZE), another 19-year-old, was the runner-up to Wang at the Senior Worlds, losing to Wang in the finals. Mammadli also lost to Wang at the 2006 Junior Worlds placing third to Wang's fifth. Men's 81kg Travis Stevens (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) also won multiple international B-Level medals in 2007. One of Stevens' most notable wins came at the Pan American Games where he defeated 2004 Olympic medalist Flavio Canto (BRA). Canto will be competing for his second medal in Paris after winning a silver in 2002, but will be on the opposite side of the draw from Stevens whose first-round match pits him against four-time World Cup medalist Diogo Lima (POR). Other top players in the division include two of the 2007 World medalists-Guillaume Elmont (NED) and Euan Burton (GBR)-as well as 2005 World medalist Takashi Ono (JPN). Men's 90kg A veteran of the Tour in the 81kg division, this weekend will be Rick Hawn's (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE) first Tour event as a 90kg player. Hawn drew a bye for the first round and will fight Elkhan Mammadov (AZE), a four-time World Cup medalist who placed seventh at the Worlds in the second round. The division includes all four medalists from the 2004 Olympic Games: Champion Zurab Zviadauri (GEO), silver medalist Hiroshi Izumi (JPN); and bronze medalists Mark Huizinga (NED) and Kaambi Taov (RUS) who won the 2007 Paris Super World Cup. Men's 100kg The top four players in the world will all be competing this weekend. World Champion Luciano Correa (BRA) and bronze medalist Daniel Hadfi (HUN) will both be on the same side of the draw. Second-ranked Oreidis Despaigne (CUB), who defeated Correa to win the Pan American Games and placed third at the Worlds, and third-ranked Levan Zhorzholiani (GEO) will be on the opposite side of the draw. Men's +100kg Daniel McCormick (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE) has a first round bye in a 40-person division before fighting Grim Vuijsters (NED). Eighteen-year-old Teddy Riner (FRA) will be fighting in front of a home crowd as the reigning Junior and Senior World Champion. Riner is in his last year of junior eligibility and has the potential to become the rare player to win both an Olympic title and a Junior World title in the same year in a division where most athletes reach their peak much later. Joao Schlittler (BRA), who won the 2007 World bronze medal at 21-years-old, will be another exciting player to watch. For more information, contact Nicole Jomantas, USA Judo Director of Communications and Media Relations, at 719.866.4732 or Nicole.Jomantas@usajudo.us. -END-