(Kissimmee, Fla.) - Nearly 800 athletes are scheduled to compete at the USA Judo National Junior Olympic Championships beginning on Friday at Walt Disney World® Resort.
Competition will be held at the Disney's Coronado Springs Resort Convention Center from Friday through Sunday with the following schedule
Intermediate 1 (9-10-year-olds), Intermediate 2 (11-12), Juvenile A (13-14), Juvenile B (15-16)
9:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. (approximate)
Bantam 1, 2 and 3 (6-8) and IJF-Junior (under 20)
9 a.m. - 4 p.m. (approximate)
International divisions for Intermediate 2, IJF-Junior and Juvenile A / B divisions
9 a.m. - 4 p.m. (approximate)
As the final qualifier for the 2008 Junior World Trials, athletes in the IJF-Junior (under-20) division all will be vying for one of four berths to the Trials where they will fight for the ability to represent Team USA at the Junior World Championships, Oct. 23-26 in Bangkok.
Check out some of the players to watch in Olympic weight divisions this weekend:
Formerly one of the smallest divisions at junior tournaments, 48kg could have more than a dozen entries this year - nearly all of which could vie for medal contention.
Angela Creutzberger (Ballston, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center), the top seed in the division, made a name for herself in the senior ranks when she placed fifth at the B-Level Rendez-Vous Canada in 2007, but watch for her to be challenged by youngster Katelyn Bouyssou (Hope, R.I. / Mayo Quanchi Judo Center). Barely 14-years-old, Bouyssou is one of the most tenacious junior players in the United States. A seasoned junior competitor by the fourth grade, Bouyssou made her first appearance on the Senior Roster as a 12-year-old 44kg player. Although she was small even by 44kg standards, Bouyssou moved up to 48kg to make a run at the Trials earlier this year and won a bronze medal as a 13-year-old at the Senior Nationals. The win qualified her for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Judo in June where she lost in the first round to Creutzberger. Bouyssou and Creutzberger fought again last week at the Junior U.S. Open and Bouyssou won the preliminary match as well as the gold medal. Bouyssou is just one of four top 44kg players who all moved up this year. Veronica Prado (Coral Springs, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami), Taylor Ibera (Honolulu, Hawaii / Hawaii Tenri) and Alexa Liddie (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) are all former 44kg players who have won internationally at both the junior and senior levels.
Sisters Chrissy and Mindy Chow have become accustomed to fighting each other, both in practice at their father Greg's club - Hawaii Tenri in Honolulu - as well as in competition where 15-year-old Chrissy beat 13-year-old Mindy at the Junior Open. Although both players are Senior Nationals bronze medalists, Chrissy is the division's top seed, but watch out for 16-year-old Kayla Chappell (Moore, Okla. / USA Stars) who beat Chrissy in the finals of the Junior Open. A 48kg player in 2007, Chappell is one of the most physical players in the division.
South Florida natives Angelica Delgado (Miami, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami) and Hana Carmichael (Wellington, Fla. / USA Judo National Team FORCE / Budokan Judo) have grown up fighting each other in local and national tournaments as both junior and seniors. The reigning Senior Nationals silver medalist, Delgado has typically had the upper hand in the meetings, but Carmichael, who is training with Pedro and the USA Judo National Team FORCE crew for the summer, showed that this won't be an easy match-up when she threw Delgado for ippon (instant win) at the Junior Open. Carmichael also defeated top-seeded Delgado at the Liberty Bell Classic in March and a little confidence could make for a long day for both players.
Nineteen-year-old Paola Genao-Butler (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) not only fought for a medal for the first time at this year's Senior Nationals, but she placed second with wins over several top players. Although the division wasn't qualified for Beijing, Genao-Butler competed at the Olympic Trials and placed second, showing she may be a top candidate for London in 2012. Also watch out for Ronni Aragona (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) who was a bronze medalist at this event in 2007.
One of the ultimate division hoppers, Helen Delpopolo (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) has fought at three weights during the past year, but earned junior titles in all of them. A 2007 Junior Open Champion at 63kg and 2008 Scholastic National Champion at 78kg, Delpopolo has moved back down to the division where she won her 2007 Junior Olympic title. Kadee Shadden (Mineral Wells, Texas / Ruben Martin Judo) and Malinda Bridges (Coventry, R.I. / Mayo Quanchi Judo) both won bronze medals at the Junior Open last week and will be contenders here as well.
It has been a long time since reigning National Champion Kayla Harrison (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE) has lost to a junior U.S. player and watch for her to continue this streak here. Although she has fought in at least seven weight divisions in just over four years, she has remained the dominant junior in nearly all of them. That said, Harrison is still new to the division after moving up from 63kg at the Senior Nationals and is not the reigning Junior Olympic Champion. That title goes to Laquinta Allen (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla. / Onikusu Judo) who won bronze earlier this year at the Pan Am Juvenile Championships at +70kg. Reigning Pan Am Junior Champion Halee Shadden (Mineral Wells, Texas / Ruben Martin Judo) also will vie for a medal here.
A wide-open division, watch for a possible surprise appearance by 2007 Senior Pan Am Team member Brittni Bradford (El Mambi Judo) who lives in nearby Tampa.
Although there are three years separating 19-year-old Aaron Kunihiro (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE) and 16-year-old Kyle Taketa (Torrance, Calif. / Gardena Judo), the Southern California natives are familiar enough with each other's styles to create a long match between the likely #1 and #2 seeds. Kunihiro quietly won his first Senior Nationals 60kg medal in 2006 while Taketa won a silver medal at 55kg and would go on to place third at the Senior Pan Ams as a 15-year-old that year. Now Kunihiro holds a #3 senior ranking and Taketa is just beginning to get more experience under his belt, but he had an impressive showing at the Trials when he nearly upset two-time Olympian Taraje Williams-Murray in the first round. Also watch for third-ranked Jeff Fujimoto (San Jose, Calif. / USA Judo National Training Site at San Jose State University) who also competed at the Trials in June after a fifth-place finish at the Senior Nationals.
Joseph Hashimoto (San Jose, Calif. / USA Judo National Training Site at San Jose State) and Daniel Chow (Honolulu, Hawaii / Hawaii Tenri) are two of the top players in the division. Both athletes placed fifth at the USA Judo Senior Nationals earlier this year and competed at their first U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Judo in June. Also watch out for Zachary Godbold (Houston, Texas / Diamondback Judo) who enters as a #2 seed after placing second at the Scholastic Nationals in March. A former top-five senior player in the 60kg division, Miguel Ballesteros (Miami, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami) recently moved up to 66kg where he competed at the Junior U.S. Open last week.
Reigning Scholastic National Champion Andrew Porras (Miami, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami) became the talk of the tournament when he beat a former Senior Nationals medalist twice to win the Scholastic Nationals in March. After winning the Junior U.S. Open last week, Porras is a favorite to do well again here, but any number of young players could have a breakthrough first win.
A former 100kg Pan Am Juvenile silver medalist, Tony Sangimino (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) slimmed down to 81kg last year and is now the top-ranked player in the division after winning the Junior Open last week and the Scholastic Nationals earlier this year. A finals appearance by Sangimino this weekend would solidify his #1 seed at the Junior World Trials, but look for strong performances by #2 and #3 seeds Antonio Rodriguez (Miami, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami) and Danny Satinsky (Buffalo Grove, Ill. / Cohen's Judo). Rodriguez, who lost to Sangimino in the finals at the Scholastics, and Satinsky fought for bronze at the Junior Open with Satinsky taking the win.
East Coasters Steve Fayzakov (Fresh Meadows, N.Y. / Spartak Sports Club) and Carlos Moran (Clifton, N.J. / Camal Judo) have battled back and forth both locally and nationally for several years and the fights continued last weekend when #2 Moran beat top-ranked Fayzakov at the Junior Open. Ajax Tadehara (Pocatello, Idaho / Idaho State University), who placed second ahead of Moran and behind Fayzakov at the Scholastic Nationals, and Michael Harrison (Burke, Va. / Sport Judo) could be in the mix as well.
Armen Babayan (Glendale, Calif. / Valley Judo Institute) is the likely top seed in this division after his third place finish at the Junior Open last week.
Colin Robinson (College Park, Ga. / Waka Mu Sha), Doyle Richeson (Burleson, Texas / Ruben Martin) and Chris Harriss (Livermore, Calif. / Northern California Elite Team) all went 1-2-3 at the Junior Open. Look for all three players to be back at the Junior Olympics with the gold on the line.