(Colorado Springs, Colo.) - Competition at the U.S. Open will conclude on Saturday at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs with athletes competing in the men's and women's middle and lightweight divisions as well as the men's and women's Open weight divisions.
Competition begins at 9 a.m. in Sports Center I with preliminary and bronze medal rounds. Gold medal finals will be held at 5 p.m.
A preview of divisions is as follows:
With 15 competitors, this division includes multiple Senior National Champions, but the only thing that remains for certain is that the winner will be a first-time U.S. Open Champion.
Reigning Senior National Champion Natalie Lafon (Glenville, Ill. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) is the top seed, but her highest U.S. Open finish was fifth place in 2007. After a first-round bye, Lafon's first match is expected to be against three-time Canadian National Champion Bianca Ockedahl. On the opposite side of the draw, reigning 52kg Senior National Champion Ann Shiraishi (San Francisco, Calif. / East Bay Judo Institute) returns to her normal 48kg division where she won a silver medal at the 2007 U.S. Open.
In a division filled with junior athletes, 14-year-old Mindy Chow (Honolulu, Hawaii / Hawaii Tenri) won her first Senior National medal as a 13-year-old in April and will be the top seed at the Open. Sixteen-year-old Kayla Chappell (Oklahoma City, Okla. / USA Stars) has never medalled at a major senior event, but the talented junior player has fought well with many of the players in the division and could find herself in the medal rounds on Saturday. Also among the young crew is Renee Guggino (CAN), an 18-year-old who won her first senior medal at the B-Level Rendez-Vous Canada in 2006.
Twice the runner-up to the U.S. Open title in 2005 and 2006, Marti Malloy (San Jose, Calif. / USA Judo National Training Site at San Jose State University) fought up to 63kg during the 2007 season where she placed ninth at the World Championships. Now back down to the lighter weight, Malloy will be one of the strongest players in the division where she won her first Senior National title in April. Watch for key semifinal fights to include a possible match between Malloy and 2007 Senior Nationals silver medalist Hannah Martin (Glenville, N.Y. / NYAC / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) as well as a potential semi between juniors Hana Carmichael (Wellington, Fla. / USA Judo National Team FORCE / Budokan Judo) and Angelica Delgado (Miami, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami).
Neither Carmichael nor Delgado have fought for a U.S. Open medal, but both placed at Senior Nationals earlier this year and, in a long-running rivalry, Carmichael won their most recent match in August to earn a berth on the Junior World Team.
The women's Open division will be finalized on Saturday morning.
Last year's U.S. Open finalists - a pair of Canadians - will both be back on the mat in Colorado Springs. Sergio Pessoa Jr. defeated Serge Zamotine in the 2007 finals and are on opposite sides of the draw again this year, but two Americans both have the potential to win their first U.S. Open medals in a 20-person field. Junior World Team member Aaron Kunihiro (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE) is on the same side of the draw as Pessoa while reigning Senior National Champion Nick Kossor (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) could fight Zamotine in his semifinal.
Olympian Taylor Takata (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) placed ninth in Beijing and, after winning a silver medal at the U.S. Open in 2007, Takata will return in his quest to win his first Open title since taking the gold medal as a 60kg player in 2002. After a first-round bye, Takata will likely have a difficult first-round match against Mesrop Barbaryan (ARM), a top-five finisher at two Super World Cups in 2007. On the top half of the bracket, Olympic Team alternate Jeremy Liggett (Glenville, N.Y. / NYAC / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) and Josh O'Neil (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) are both Senior Nationals bronze medalists who come in as the second and third seeds.
Olympian Ryan Reser (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) will return to the U.S. Open in his hometown with hopes of winning his fifth title. In the unfamiliar position of being the second seed behind Michael Eldred (Fruitland, Idaho / Western Idaho Judo Institute), Reser is on the same side of the draw as 2008 Junior World Team member Nick Delpopolo (Glenville, N.Y. / NYAC / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center). Reser has never lost to Delpopolo, but their match at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials was closer than many expected. One of Reser's biggest threats in the top of the draw will likely be two-time Belgium Open medalist Samir Bouheraoua (FRA). On the bottom of the draw are Eldred and Bobby Lee (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE) who won the Open as a junior in 2006. Eldred will have a tough road, however, as he could be looking at a quarter-final against former European U-23 medalist Ghazaros Grigoryan (ARM).
The men's Open division will be finalized on Saturday morning.