USA Judo Signs on to Manage Paralympic Judo

March 19, 2009, 5:29 p.m. (ET)

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) - USA Judo is pleased to announce that, as part of being the National Governing Body for judo in the United States, the organization will manage all aspects of judo for blind and visually impaired athletes from developmental through elite Paralympic athletes.

As part of a recent agreement with U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Judo was recently offered the opportunity to help grow the sport of judo for blind and visually impaired athletes throughout the United States with the ultimate goal of developing an athlete pipeline and placing athletes on the Paralympic podium at the London Games in 2012.

"I've been involved with Paralympic judo at one level or another at the Olympic Training Center for many years and am looking forward to working with blind and visually impaired athletes to reach their full potential as well as bring an increased awareness to the sport," said USA Judo Director of Athlete Performance Eddie Liddie (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

Beginning on April 6, Michelle Rankine (Denver, Colo.) will begin her new position as USA Judo's Paralympic High Performance Coordinator.

"We are glad to have Michelle join our USA Judo staff where she will concentrate on developing strong programs under the guidance and expertise of Eddie Liddie," USA Judo CEO Jose H. Rodriguez (Colorado Springs, Colo.) "The fact that we are now able to hire a full-time staff member to work with our present High Performance National Office Staff of Eddie Liddie as Director and Alyssa Johnson as our International Team Travel and High Performance Video Library Coordinator is a big plus for our athletes and where we need to be in 2012!"

Rankine currently resides in Denver where she is pursuing her doctorate degree in Higher Education with a concentration on Athletics at the University of Denver.

After graduating with a Bachelor's degree in Kinesiology and a Master's in Sports Management and Pedagogy Administration from Purdue University, Rankine committed herself to athletics and community service. Throughout her collegiate career, she gained valuable experience through internships with The Big Ten Conference, Purdue University Athletic Department, The New York Jets, The North Star Marketing Group and the University of Denver Athletic Department.

In her new role, Rankine will focus on creating a high performance plan for recruiting and developing members of Team USA for the 2012 Paralympic Games as well as developing a pipeline of Paralympic athletes through programs in key metropolitan areas throughout the United States.

As one of Rankine's first duties, she will be instrumental in the implementation of the first ever USA Judo National Championships for Visually Impaired Athletes which will be held in conjunction with the USA Judo Senior Nationals on April 18 in San Diego, Calif.

"We are working with local agencies and schools throughout the nation to implement new Paralympic judo program and have already reached out to communities such as Chicago and South Florida," Rodriguez said.  "USA Judo is extremely proud to accept the USOC's offer to place Paralympic judo under our direction. This is a great opportunity for USA Judo and we will take advantage of it to its fullest."