(Colorado Springs, Colo.) - Competition begins for members of Team USA on Thursday at the first day of the Junior World Championships in Bangkok, Thailand.
With preliminary rounds beginning at 10 a.m., the men's +100kg and women's 48kg and 52kg will be fought on the first day.
Team USA will field first-time competitors in each of the three divisions and, with new repechage rules in place in which athletes must advance to the quarter-finals to be eligible to fight for a medal, the pressure will be on for athletes to make no mistakes.
Colin Robinson (Atlanta, Ga. / Waka Mu Sha Judo) drew Panupong Prothien (THA) in the first round of the +100kg division.. A win would advance Robinson to a second round match against either 2008 European U-20 silver medalist Mykhaylo Blinov (UKR) or Jan Ratej (SLO).
The favorite in the division, and one of the stars of the tournament, is 19-year-old Teddy Riner (FRA) who followed his 2006 Junior World title with a Senior World gold last year and an Olympic bronze medal in Beijing.
After a first-round bye in the 48kg division, 18-year-old Angela Creutzberger (Ballston, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) will fight Gi-Ppeum Han (KOR) and then would likely need a win over Yumi Asaka (JPN) or Meixin Ye (CHN) to advance to the quarter-finals.
In a wide-open division, Alexandra Podryadova (KAZ) is the only seeded player following her 2006 Junior World bronze medal, but all four 2008 European Junior Championship medals will be competing as well, including Champion Ewa Konieczny (POL), silver medalist Derya Cibir (TUR) and bronze medalists Kelly Edwards (GBR) and Charline Van Snick (BEL).
Chrissy Chow (Honolulu, Hawaii / Hawaii Tenri) may not have one of the larger pools in the tournament with 30 competitors, but the 52kg division is stacked and Chow's opening match will be a difficult one against Natalia Kuzyutina (RUS), a fifth-place finisher at the 2006 Junior Worlds and bronze medalist at the Warsaw World Cup earlier this year. Should she advance, Chow would need to defeat the winner of Chiho Kagaya (JPN) and Shushana Hevondian (UKR), the reigning European Junior bronze medalist.
Other athletes to watch for include Maureen Groefsema (NED) and Lola Benarroche (FRA) in the top half of the draw. Groefsema is the lone returning medalist from the 2006 Junior Worlds and she could face 2008 European Junior silver medalist Benarroche in the second round. Reigning European Junior Champion Marta Kuban (POL) is favored to win her pool, but could be challenged by Maia Taruashvili (GEO).