(Colorado Springs, Colo.) - Two of Team USA's strongest veterans will be among the competitors at the Junior World Championships when the men's 73kg and 81kg and women's 70kg and 78kg divisions are held in Bangkok on Saturday.
Eighteen-year-old Kayla Harrison (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE) is returning to her second Junior World Championships with both Senior National and U.S. Open titles to her credit in the 78kg division, but this will be only her second tournament outside North America since moving up in weight earlier this year. Harrison's first match will be against reigning Pan American Junior Champion Steffani Lupetti (BRA). Harrison will need a win in the second round against either Nadia Fernandez (ARG) or reigning European Junior medalist Katarzyna Furmanek (POL) to advance to the quarter-finals.
In the pool above Harrison's, one of the most interesting matches of the day will be a first-round fight between Asian Junior Champion Ruika Sato (JPN) and Lea Murko (SLO) who placed fifth at the 2006 Junior Worlds. On the opposite side of the draw, watch for Audrey Cheumeo (FRA), the 2008 European Junior Champion and a bronze medalist at the senior Belgian Ladies' Open, to make a run at the finals.
Competing in the tournament's largest division with 49 players, this is the second Junior Worlds for Nick Delpopolo (Glenville, N.Y. / NYAC / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center), a silver medalist at the 2007 Senior Nationals in the 73kg division. Delpopolo will fight Erzhigit Abdyldaev (KGZ) in the first round to face Victor Oliveira (BRA) in the second round.
In a division in which none of the top seven players from the 2006 Junior Worlds is returning from the 2006 event, any number of players could take it all, but one of the strongest contenders is in Delpopolo's pool - Piotr Kurkiewicz (POL), the 2008 European Junior Champion who Delpopolo could fight in the quarters.
Delpopolo's younger sister Helen Delpopolo (Westfield, N.J. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) will be competing in the 70kg division with a first round match against 2008 European Junior Champion Abigel Joo (HUN). Delpopolo would need to upset Joo and earn a second round victory over Leslyn Gonzales (PHI) to advance to the quarter-finals.
With Brazil's women earning two of four gold medals so far in this event and earning bronze in a third division, it should come as no surprise that Mayra Silva (BRA) is favored to come out of the top half of the draw to win her first Junior World title. One of the youngest medalists at the 2006 Junior Worlds, the 2008 Olympian also is the reigning Pan American Senior Champion and was a gold medalist at the Warsaw World Cup earlier this year.
Competing on his first U.S. team, Danny Satinsky (Buffalo Grove, Ill. / Cohen's Judo) has a bye in the 81kg division and a second-round match that will likely pit him against one of the most difficult players in the tournament - Alibek Bashkaev (RUS), the reigning Junior World Champion who won the Paris Super World Cup and medalled at two other European A-Levels just months after his eighteenth birthday.
The 81kg division also is a large one with 44 players, but reigning European Junior Champion Artem Vasylenko (UKR) could be a player to emerge from the top of the draw and into the finals.