Paralympic Team Previews
(Colorado Springs, Colo.) - The 2008 U.S. Paralympic Team for Judo has a long history of success to live up towith three medals won at the 2004 Games in Athens and the first two judo golds for Team USA at the 2000 Games in Sydney, but the five-member squad is up to the challenge in Beijing.
Scott Jones (Little Rock, Ark. / Little Rock Judo) will be the lone competitor for Team USA on Monday when he competes in the 81kg division at Beijing Workers' Gymnasium which was home to boxing during the Olympic Games.
A 90kg player in 2004 who is the team's only returning Paralympian, Jones moved down to 81kg in 2006 where he placed seventh at the 2006 and 2007 International Blind Sports Association World Championships.
Jones' four teammates all will fight on Tuesday with competition beginning on both days at noon.
Myles Porter (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) became just the third legally blind athlete to earn a national ranking against sighted players in November 2006 - just five months after placing fifth in the 100kg division at his IBSA World Championships debut.
In 2007, the former University of Toledo football player turned judoka finished seventh - just one match away from fighting for bronze, but his goal in Beijing is to make a trip to the podium in his Paralympic debut. After spending two weeks training with Olympic athletes at camps in Spain and Germany this summer, Porter hopes to bring his experience training with sighted players to the mat in Beijing.
Less than three years after his introduction to judo at Chico State University, Greg DeWall (Chico, Calif. / Stanford University Judo) also has the potential to win a medal in Beijing after placing fifth in the +100kg division at the 2007 Worlds and winning a silver medal at the Parapan American Games two weeks later.
The only female player on the U.S. team, 19-year-old Jordan Mouton (Houston, Texas / Diamondback Judo Club) has been through four weight divisions since qualifying for her first World Team as a 52kg 16-year-old in 2006.
After competing at 57kg at the Worlds last year, Mouton's chances of qualifying for Beijing dropped tremendously when her division was cancelled at the Parapan American Games. She moved up to 63kg just to weeks after the Worlds to try and qualify that division for Team USA at the Parapans, but ultimately fell short.
With the United States only qualified to send a 70kg player to the Games, Mouton moved up again earlier this year and beat 2007 Parapan American medalist LisaMaria Martinez twice at the Paralympic Trials in April to earn her first trip to the Games.
Like Mouton, Andre Watson (Upper Darby, Pa. / Liberty Bell Judo) looked to be shut out of Beijing when his 90kg division at the Parapans was cancelled as well, but a last-minute withdrawal by an Iranian player from the Games lineup earlier this year opened a slot for Watson.
A former elite goalball player, Watson is a psychologist - nicknamed "Dr. Dre" by his friends - who was introduced to judo while teaching goalball at a Sports Education Camp for blind and visually impaired children in Wisconsin several years ago.
Competition will be held both Monday and Tuesday with preliminary rounds beginning at noon and finals at 5 p.m. which will include repechage finals, semifinals and gold and bronze medal matches.