Team USA Primed To Medal At Paralympic Games In London

March 28, 2012, 1:08 p.m. (ET)
February 10, 2012 – USA Judo Paralympic athletes, primed by stellar success at several recent tournaments and backed by a top-notch coaching staff, are preparing to bring home multiple medals from the Paralympic Games this summer in London.

“This is the strongest team we’ve had in years,” said head coach Scott Moore, who won a gold at the Paralympic Games in 2000 and bronzes in 1996 and 2004.

Although the roster has not been finalized – Paralympic trials are slated for April at the U.S. Senior National Championships in Irving, TX.– several elites have all but claimed their spots, having demonstrated their dominance domestically and abroad at several major recent tournaments, including the Parapan American Games in Guadalajara in the fall.

Myles Porter, 100 kg, (U.S. Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, CO), took gold at the Parapans, defeating both the gold medalist from the last Paralympics in Beijing, Brazil’s Antonio Silva, and the bronze medalist as well, Juan Carlos Cortada of Cuba.

Katie Davis, 70+ kg, (Team Sacramento, Sacramento, CA), took silver at the Parapan Games, besting the silver medalist from the last Paralympics, Deanne Silva from Brazil.

Jordan Mounton, 57kg (/Diamondback Judo, Houston, TX/U.S. Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, CO), won a bronze medal at the 2011 IBSA World Games. Although she was unable to compete in Guadalajara due to an injury, she is looking forward to her second trip to the Paralympics. She competed at 70kg in 2008, finishing 7th.

Team members also had great showings last month at the Pajulahti Games in Finland, with Porter seizing gold medals in two divisions (100kg and Open); and Ron Hawthorne, 60 kg (U.S. Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, CO), taking gold as well, defeating the ParaEuropean silver medalist from Russia. Dartanyon Crockett (U.S. Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, CO) also came home with a gold medal in the 81kg division, but that weight class was not qualified for the Games in London.

The team looks forward to several more opportunities to train and compete before the Paralympics, including the German Open for visually impaired athletes next month and the USA Judo International Training Camp in Texas in June.

“Overall the level of visually-impaired judo around the world has been improving dramatically,” said Assistant Coach Heidi Moore, “and the fact that our athletes are doing so well on the international stage demonstrates our strength. This bodes extremely well for our team at the upcoming Paralympic Games in London.”

Scott and Heidi Moore are head instructors of Denver Judo in Colorado. Scott was  recently named head coach of the Paralympic Team by the US Olympic Committee, pending final approval by the USOC Chief Executive Officer. He was the assistant coach in 2008. Heidi Moore, a former able-bodied world team member, was named the assistant coach. Marc Vink of Liberty Bell Judo in Philadelphia, was selected as the team leader.

“This is the first time that USA Judo has been in charge of selecting and training a Paralympic Team and we’ve assembled an experienced coaching staff from the best judo athletes in the country,” said Eddie Liddie, head coach at the Olympic Training Center and USA Judo’s Director of High Performance.

Team Leader Marc Vink said, “this is a competitive team, including three athletes who have medaled in world games and championships, so they are definitely contenders.”

“The women’s judo is so much stronger than it has been in past years,” Scott Moore said. Mouton is likely to join Davis as a member of the team. This will be the first time the U.S. has brought more than one female athlete to the Paralympics.

In the 100 kg division, Porter is looking stronger than ever, said Moore. “I have no doubt that he can be on the top of that podium this year.”

In the 90 kg division, Ryan Jones (Denver Judo) is the top seed in this division and looks to defend his slot at the 2012 USA Judo National Championships for the Visually Impaired in April, which will serve as the Paralympic trials for the qualified divisions.

It appears likely that the United States will also qualify to compete in the men’s 60kg division at the Paralympics, due in part to a new vision classification process. Ron Hawthorne is the top seed in that division in the U.S., finishing with a bronze medal at the 2011 Parapan American Games and dominating the field in Finland last month.

Looking beyond the Paralympics, Vink pointed to the fact that this is a young team with tremendous spirit and a vertical trajectory. These fighters and the team have a tremendous future under USA Judo.