European Tour Begins in Sofia for U.S. Women

March 29, 2012, 1:48 p.m. (ET)

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – The first tournament of the European Tour – a series of Olympic qualifying events that run for five consecutive weekends – will be held in Sofia, Bulgaria this weekend.

Four U.S. women will compete in the Sofia World Cup on Saturday.  Competition also will be held on Sunday in the 70kg, 78kg and +78kg divisions, but Team USA does not have any entrants at those weights.

All four players are veterans of World Cup podiums in 2010, but each will be vying for their first medal at a European event.

European Tour Begins in Sofia for U.S. Women. 

Jeanette Rodriguez (Wakefield, Mass. / USA Judo National Team FORCE) earned her first World Cup title at the USA World Cup in August in the 52kg division. Rodriguez took the fall leg of the World Tour off after competing at the Senior World Championships in September and will be back to international competition after a move from Miami to train in suburban Boston. 

Rodriguez’s Senior World Teammate Christal Ransom (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) earned her first trip to the World Cup podium in Samoa in November after two fifth-place finishes early in the year in the 63kg division. 

Two U.S. players will compete in the 57kg division. 

Twenty-three-year-old Leilani Akiyama (Bellevue, Wash. / U.S. Judo Training Center) returned to international competition for the first time in six years last fall.  Competing in the 63kg division, Akiyama earned a bronze medal in Samoa, but has moved down to 57kg division in her bid to qualify for London. 

A former Senior Pan Am Team member as a 52kg player who won a silver medal at the Senior Nationals in the 63kg division in April, Anna Palmer (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) has been plagued by injuries during past seasons.  Fortunately, Palmer had her best year in 2010 when she won World Cup bronzes in Venezuela and Samoa. 

Live results of the event can be found at 

Tags: Anna Palmer, Anna Palmer, Christal Ransom, Jeanette Rodriguez, Leilani Akiyama