Athletes from Eight Nations to Compete in Pan Am Games for the Blind in Colorado Springs on Saturday

July 14, 2009, 3:25 p.m. (ET)

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) - In one of the first major competitions leading up to the 2012 Paralympic Games, blind and visually impaired athletes from eight countries will compete at the International Blind Sports Association Pan American Games Judo Championships on Saturday at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

Athletes scheduled to compete include teams from Venezuela, United States, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Colombia, Canada, Argentina and Brazil.

Competition begins at 1 p.m. in Sports Center I at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. 

Team USA includes two Paralympians as well as three former World Team members among the 14-person squad.

Myles Porter (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center / Boulder Judo Training Center), the fifth-ranked 100kg athlete among sighted players in the United States, placed fifth at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. 

In 2004, Lori Pierce (Arvada, Colo. / Denver Judo) became the first female U.S. judo player to win a medal at the Paralympic Games, placing second in the 70kg division in Athens.  Pierce retired later that year to attend college at the University of Texas, but returned to competition in April at the USA Judo Visually Impaired National Championships where she moved up to 78kg for the first time.

Christella Garcia (Sacramento, Calif. / Sacramento Judo), Tina Thomas (Los Angeles, Calif. / Mojica Dojo) and Ron Hawthorne (Kansas City, Kans. / Welcome Mat) all competed on the 2007 World Team.

Garcia placed fifth in her World Championship debut in the 63kg division, but fell just short of qualifying for Beijing. 

A fifth-place finisher at the USA Judo Senior National Championships for sighted players in the 55kg division, Hawthorne competes as a 60kg player in Paralympic events.  Although he did not place at the 2007 World Championships, Hawthorne did win the gold in April at the International German Championships for the Blind and Visually Impaired earlier this season.

One of the team's veterans, Thomas moved up from 48kg to 52kg earlier this year and is hoping to place at her first major event since finishing fourth at the Parapan American Games in 2007.

This year's U.S. Team also features a first - a husband and wife duo who both will be chasing the gold.  Mike and Katie Davis (Sacramento, Calif. / Team Sacramento) are both first time team members and will be competing in the 73kg and +78kg divisions, respectively. 

The team is being led by Head Coach Scott Moore (Denver, Colo.) and Assistant Coach Raul Tamayo (Redwood City, Calif.)  Tamayo was the Head Coach of the 2008 Paralympic Team where he was assisted by Scott Moore who previously won three Paralympic medals during his own athletic career.  Marc Vink (Riverton, N.J.) is the Team Leader.

Among the international contingent are at least three Paralympic medalists, including the following: 

  • Eduardo Avila (MEX), 2008 Paralympic Champion at 73kg
  • Liena Ruvalcaba (MEX), 2008 Paralympic silver medalist at 70kg
  • Reinaldo Rafael Carvalo (VEN), 2008 Paralympic bronze medalist at 81kg

A complete roster of U.S. athletes is as follows:

Women's 52kg
Tina Thomas (Los Angeles, Calif. / Mojica Dojo)

Women's 63kg
Christella Garica (Sacramento, Calif. / Sacramento Judo)

Women's 78kg
Lorena Pierce (Arvada, Colo. / Denver Judo)

Women's +78kg
Katie Davis (Sacramento, Calif. / Team Sacramento)

Men's 60kg
Ron Hawthorne (Kansas City, Kans. / Welcome Mat)

Men's 73kg
Mike Davis (Sacramento, Calif. / Team Sacramento)

Men's 81kg
Adnan Gutic (St. Louis, Mo. / Wellman White Dragon)
Romeo Edmead (New York City, N.Y. / Oishi Dojo)

Men's 90kg
Jason Keaton (Elizabethtown, K.Y. / Ft. Knox Judo)
Chris Jones (Pinole, Calif. / Cahill's)

Men's 100kg
Myles Porter (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center / Boulder Judo Training Center)
Martin Langworthy (Salt Lake City, Utah / USA Stars)

Men's +100kg
Johann Shockency (Andover, Minn. / Bemidji State University Judo)
Ryan Jones (Aurora, Colo. / Denver Judo)