Olympians to Compete at Otto Grand Prix This Weekend

Feb. 20, 2009, 1:44 p.m. (ET)

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) - Olympians Travis Stevens and Daniel McCormick, both of the New York Athletic Club and USA Judo National Team FORCE in Wakefield, Mass, will be among a team of six U.S. players competing in the Otto Grand Prix in Hamburg, Germany this weekend.
Both players placed ninth at the Beijing Olympic Games, but neither has competed on the European circuit since last summer.
Competing in the 81kg division, one of Stevens' toughest competitors will be Guillaume Elmont (NED), a two-time World medalist and fifth-place finisher at the Beijing Olympic Games.  Two other players to watch include former Senior World medalist Elkhan Rajabli and reigning Junior World medalist Ramin Gurbanov, both of Azerbaijan.  As host country, Germany will field a maximum of four players in each division.  While 2008 Olympic gold medalist Ole Bischof (GER) is not scheduled to compete, 2006 European U23 Champion Nick Hein (GER) could be a podium contender on his home turf.  Stevens and Hein fought at the 2007 Kano Cup, however, with Stevens taking the win.
Watch for McCormick's division to be led by Pierre Robin (FRA).  Although the top-ranked heavyweight in the world is Robin's countryman Teddy Riner who won the 2007 Senior Worlds and medalled in Beijing as a teenager, Robin is a top-10 player as well who won bronze at the 2005 Worlds and placed third at the Paris Grand Slam two weeks ago with his only loss coming to Riner.  Again, Germany is expected to have several excellent players in the division, including 2006 Junior World medalist Tino Bierau and 2005 European Junior Champion Fabian Hubert (GER).  Also watch out for five-time World Cup medalists Grim Vuijsters (NED) and Maxim Bryanov (RUS), who will both be in attendance.
A seventh-place finisher at the 2008 Junior Worlds, Aaron Kunihiro (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE) recently moved into the #1 ranking in the senior 60kg division in the United States, but this will be his first senior European A-Level tournament.  Gal Yekutiel (ISR), a fifth-place finisher at the 2008 Olympic Games will be one of the top seeds in the division while two-time Pan American Champion Frazer Will (CAN), seven-time world Cup medalist Ramil Gasimov (AZE) and 2008 Junior World Champion Arsen Galstyan (RUS) will be other players to watch.
As the European A-Level tournaments are now an integral part of the 2012 Olympic qualifying process, for the first time, all countries will be allowed to have a maximum of two athletes compete in each division.  Therefore, both 2008 Senior National Champion Bobby Lee and two-time Junior World Team member Nick Delpopolo will be fighting in the 73kg division. 
Although the duo, both of the NYAC and USA Judo National Team FORCE in Wakefield, fought twice last week at Pedro's Challenge with Lee taking each of the wins, they will be on opposite sides of the bracket in Hamburg. 
While reigning Olympic Champion and 2007 World silver medalist Elnur Mammadli (AZE) will enter as the top seed, Benjamin Darbelet (FRA) is an unseeded favorite as well.  Darbelet, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist in the 66kg division, placed second at the Paris Grand Slam two weeks ago and will be fighting up this week.
Former Junior World team member Hana Carmichael (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE / Budokan Judo) will be the only female player competing for the United States.  The #3 57kg player in the United States, Carmichael broke through at the senior level in 2008 when she won a silver medal at the U.S. Open.
Two veterans will enter as the divisions top two seeds.  Thirty-four-year-old Deborah Gravenstijn (NED) has won silver and bronze medals at both the Worlds and the Olympic Games while 31-year-old Barbara Harel (FRA) is a 15-time World Cup medalist who placed fifth in Beijing. 
Competition schedule for the Otto Grand Prix is as follows:
Saturday February 21
Women's 48kg, 52kg, 57kg, 63kg
Men's 60kg, 66kg, 73kg
Sunday February 22
Women's 70kg, 78kg, +78kg
Men's 60kg, 66kg, 73kg