Harrison Makes History at Dusseldorf Grand Prix

Feb. 21, 2012, 1:34 p.m. (ET)

February 19, 2012 – Team USA’s Kayla Harrison today made history as the first U.S. woman to win the Dusseldorf Grand Prix (formerly the German Open), joining only fellow Team FORCE member Travis Stevens and their coach, Jimmy Pedro, in claiming that spot for the United States.

Harrison along with other U.S. teammates have been on a European tour the last several weeks and Kayla adds this gold to a gold she won just last week at a World Cup in Budapest.

“Today was a very tough day psychologically for Kayla who was very tired from being in Europe for so long,” said her coach, Pedro. “Despite that, she stepped up and won all of her matches by ippon up until the final.”

A key goal for Kayla in fighting at this tournament today was to face Heidi Wollert of Germany who Kayla has never fought. Kayla threw Wollert for ippon with ippon seionage in the semi-finals.

And in the final round, Kayla won an extremely hard fought golden score battle against  the 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist to take the top spot on the podium today at the ultra-competitive Dusseldorf Grand Prix.

Harrison was awarded the victory on ‘flags’ by the referees after neither fighter scored during the regular five-minute match or the three minutes of golden-score overtime – In golden score, any point wins a match.

“She has now proven that she can beat everyone in the world at 78kg and is poised to become our first ever Olympic champion,” Pedro said. “I could not be prouder of Kayla's accomplishments.”

"We came here to fight Wollert and get tough matches to prepare for the Olympics,” Harrison said. “I feel as if that goal has definitely been accomplished! I am EXHAUSTED. But I know that this will all have been worth it come August 2nd."

Nick Delpopolo, another strong contender for Team USA at the Olympics next year, fought hard to win three matches and a fifth place yesterday.

“Nick Delpopolo looked very strong all day,” said Pedro. In the first round Delpopolo got caught for wazari with drop seionage by Mongolian Odbayar Ganbaatar but then “came back and countered the Mongolian kosoto gare to tie it up. Then with 30 seconds to go, he caught the Mongolian with drop taio for yuko.”

In the second round, Delpopolo beat his Canadian nemesis Nick Tritton, throwing him for ippon with uchimata with just two seconds left in a dead-even match.

Then Delpopolo faced world #2-ranked Ki-Chun Wang from Korea. In a tough back-and-forth match where both players almost scored numerous times, the Korean caught Nick with tomoe nage for yuko with one minute left. “Nick just couldn't find a way to get the yuko back,” Pedro said. "Nick really fought well today and looked good all day. He's just one match away from getting over the hump and beating a world top-ten in the quarters to get into the money at these major events," Pedro said. “He should be proud of his performance today."

- Story by Ernest Pund