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U.S. Open Day 1 Preview

Sept. 25, 2008, 12 a.m. (ET)

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) - Competition at the U.S. Open will begin on Friday at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs with athletes competing in the men's and women's heavyweight divisions as well as the non-Olympic women's 44kg and men's 55kg.

Competition begins at 9 a.m. in Sports Center I with preliminary and bronze medal rounds.  Gold medal finals will be held at 6 p.m.

A preview of divisions is as follows:

Women's 44kg

This division is expected to be uncontested.

Women's 63kg

Canadian Jennie Bonsant has advanced to the finals of the past two U.S. Open Championships in 2006 and 2007, but lost to Ronda Rousey (Santa Monica, Calif. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE) and Kayla Harrison (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE), respectively.  Bonsant returns this year and is favored to advance to the medal rounds again, but watch for 2008 Senior National Champion Janine Nakao (San Jose, Calif. / USA Judo National Training Site at San Jose State University) to make a run at her first B-Level bronze medal.  Two teammates from the USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs also have the potential to advance to the finals.  Nineteen-year-old Paola Genao-Butler won a silver medal in her second Senior Nationals in April when she lost to Nakao in the finals.  Christal Ransom placed fifth at the Senior Nationals, but defeated Genao-Butler three times at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Judo in June.

Women's 70kg

Top seed Katie Sell (Oshkosh, Wis. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) won her first U.S. Open medal with a bronze in 2007 and was named an alternate to the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team earlier this year.  Three-time Senior National medalist Natasha Newsome (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) and Birmingham World Cup medalist Michelle Holt (GBR) will be other players to watch. 

Women's 78kg

Two-time National Champion and Junior World Team member Kayla Harrison (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE) won the 63kg division in 2007, but moved up to 78kg in 2008 where she won both the Senior Nationals and the Trials, but could not compete in the Olympic Games as the United States had not qualified the division.  One of Harrison's top competitors will be Katrina McDonald (GBR).

Women's +78kg

Melinda Swanson (Honolulu, Hawaii / Hawaii Tenri) won the Open division in 2007 and is favored to do well in the heavyweight division this year.  Among her competitors will be four-time Senior Nationals medalist Toni Geiger (Dumont, N.J. / Tech Judo) and Canadian junior Alyssa Caughy.

Men's 55kg

Five-time National Champion Hiram Cruz (PUR) will be looking to win his first U.S. Open title since 2002.  A former Blind World Team member, Ronnie Hawthorne (Kansas City, Kans. / Cahill's Judo) has won two E-Level tournaments and will be competing in his first U.S. Open.  Juniors Austin Hronek (Vancouver, Wash. / Obukan) and Connor Murtha (Boulder, Colo. / Boulder Judo Training Center) also will be among the competitors. 

Men's 81kg

Travis Stevens (Glenville, N.Y. / NYAC / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) won his first major title at the U.S. Open in 2006 and the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team member is expected to advance to his third consecutive finals at the event.  Senior Nationals bronze medalist Ross MacBaisey (San Diego, Calif. / San Shi Judo) and Takeshi Kurisu (JPN) could advance to the finals as well.

Men's 90kg

With none of the 2008 Senior Nationals medalists scheduled to compete, this will be a tournament in which any number of young players could emerge on top, including 2008 Fall Classic National Champion Jake Larsen (Santa Rosa, Calif. / Redwood Coast Judo), former 81kg Senior Nationals medalist Yuko Sin (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center)Atsushi Yoshinaga (San Jose, Calif. / USA Judo National Training Site at San Jose State University), a 2007 Senior Nationals medalist, is another player who could win his first U.S. Open medal.

Men's 100kg

In a division stacked with top U.S. players, two-time World Team member Djamaldin Aliev (Centennial, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) and 2008 Olympian Adler Volmar (Coral Springs, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami) both will be competing in hopes of winning their first U.S. Open title.  Kyle Vashkulat (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center), a 2007 Senior Nationals medalist; and 2007 Senior National Champion Shintaro Highashi (Scarsdale, N.Y. / NYAC / Kokushi Budo Institute) are other players to watch while 2008 Paralympian Myles Porter (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) is looking to become only the second legally blind athlete to win a medal at the U.S. Open. 

Men's +100kg

Olympian Daniel McCormick (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE) placed second at the U.S. Open in 2007, but will have an international contingent of strong players to compete against in Colorado Springs, including Cedric Medeuf (FRA), Yasutaka Ohkawa (JPN) and Vladimir Starcencov (MDA).

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