JUDO: Team USA Continues Quest for Beijing Qualification on Day 2 of Pan Ams in Miami

May 09, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)
For Immediate Release May 9, 2008 Contact: Nicole Jomantas, 719.271.9937 (cell) Nicole.Jomantas@usajudo.us (Miami, Fla.)-After a day in which Team USA found that the women's 78kg and 63kg divisions may fall short of qualifying for the Olympic Games in Beijing, the Team hopes to get back on track on Friday with the qualification of the lightweight divisions. Competition begins at 10 a.m. at the James L. Knight Center with preliminary competition and concludes with finals at 5 p.m. As one of the final opportunities for countries to qualify in each weight division for Beijing, athletes from each country will hope to bring their"A Games"to the table. A preview of the Olympic weight divisions is as follows. The non-Olympic light and Open weight divisions also will be held on Friday. Men's 60kg For Taraje Williams-Murray (Bronx, N.Y. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE), this division is in a position similar to 2004-seventh. With only the top six countries in the region going to the Games, Williams-Murray's primary objective is to leapfrom Juan Postigos (PER) on the qualification list and will need to place well above Postigos on Friday. The Peruvian has an advantage, however, with a first-round bye while Williams-Murray will face a player from the Netherlands Antilles first and cannot afford a mistake as his next round will be against the winner of a match between Yosmani Piker (CUB) and Denilson Lourenco (BRA)-both top players in the division. A loss to either Cuba or Brazil would likely mean a difficult road in the repechage against the other. Men's 66kg Although the United States hasn't medaled during the past three Pan Ams in this division, Joao Derly (BRA) and Yordanis Arencibia (CUB) went 1-2 at the 2007 Worlds, qualifying their nations for the Games last year. Although Arencibia will be competing in Miami, he is on the opposite side of the draw of Taylor Takata (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) who placed fifth at the 2006 Pan Ams in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Takata's first round will be a touch match against 2007 Pan Am Games silver medalist Roberto Ibanez (ECU). Takata is currently ranked six in the division, but should move up significantly as four of the five players ahead of him already have competed in their respective Zone Cup in which Takata and Sasha Mehemedovic (CAN) are expected to fight on Sunday. Men's 73kg Although Ryan Reser's (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) division is nearly locked in for Beijing after his gold medal finishes at the 2007 Pan Am Championships and Pan Am Games, Reser is no less determined to add his fourth Pan Am title to the resume, saying earlier in the week:"I'm looking to win it all." Reser's most difficult opponent could be Ronald Girones (CUB) who beat Reser at the 2006 Pan Ams and placed second at the Paris Super World Cup earlier this year. Women's 48kg Sayaka Matsumoto (El Cerrito, Calif. / NYAC / East Bay Judo Institute) knows all too well the pain of being the best in the United States, but being on the sidelines for the Games. Although Matsumoto won the Trials in 2004, her division wasn't qualified and she did not get to compete in Athens. This time, with Yanet Bermoy (CUB) and Paula Parreto (ARG) placing in the top five at the Worlds, Matsumoto is ranked third in the division. With the three players below her already having competed in the Zone Cup, Matsumoto is in a good position at third as the women need to be ranked in the top three at the close of the Zone 1 Cup here on Sunday, but needs to put up a solid performance to make sure she stays there. Women's 52kg Anna Palmer (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) has the privilege of competing on her first Pan Am Team, but she comes in after the United States has already fallen to eighth on the ranking list and will need a gold medal to keep in contention. Women's 57kg Valerie Gotay (Harlingen, Texas / USA Judo National Training Site at Harlingen) has never finished lower than third at a Pan Ams since coming out of a 12-year retirement in 2004 and is currently ranked second in the division. Gotay's most difficult match of the day could be a semifinal against former World Champion Yurisleidys Lupetey (CUB) or up-and-coming Brazilian Katelyn Quadros (BRA) who fight each other in the first round. For more information, contact Nicole Jomantas, USA Judo Director of Communications and Media Relations, at 719.271.9937 (cell) or Nicole.Jomantas@usajudo.us -END-