USA Judo Captures Gold, Silver, Bronze In Guadalajara

March 29, 2012, 12:38 p.m. (ET)
Kayla Harrison has done it again. She’s bringing home the gold.

Overcoming a recent concussion, she won four matches ascending the podium at the Pan American Senior Championships in Guadalajara today, pointing with confidence that she is well on her way to representing her country at the Olympics in London next year.

This top judo fighter dazzled the sport last fall when she took gold at the World Championships in Tokyo – few victories are so huge. In the final gold round of that tournament she faced Brazilian powerhouse Mayra Aguiar, who was across the mats today in Guadalajara for the gold round again. And, Kayla beat her … again.

“I felt like she was probably winning the match,” Harrison said. Then her coach, Jimmy Pedro of Team FORCE, Wakefield, Mass., yelled at her, “Just act like you’re down by a yuko!”

It worked. They do a drill at Pedro’s, Harrison said, “where we go for a minute, and one person is down by a yuko and has to get it back.”

And then Pedro was yelling at her, “this is about heart, you’ve got to dig deeper with this match,” Harrison recalled. “Got to come down to whoever wants it more, and today that was me.”

 “This could have been the world championships all over, or the Olympics, given the high level of competition at this tournament,” said Jose Rodriguez, CEO of USA Judo.

“Kayla continues to show her leadership of our team by continuing to outperform even herself, time and again,” Rodriguez said.

Harrison wasn’t the only one climbing the podium for USA Judo today. Another huge figure in the sport, Travis Stevens, took silver, losing his final match by a mere yuko to Brazilian Leandro Guilheiro. Stevens, another hot prospect for London next year, was the first American to win gold at the Dusseldorf Grand Prix in Feburary, defeating the 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist, Ole Bischof, on the ascent.

Kyle Vashkulat (NYAC / Jason Morris Judo Center, Wakefield, Mass.) and Christal Ransom (US Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, CO) captured bronze medals today. Nina Cutro-Kelly (Universal Judo, San Antonio, TX) and Katie Sell (US Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, CO) took fifth place at this B-Level tournament and qualifier for the prestigious Pan American Games later this year.

“Our superstars fought incredibly well today,” said Jimmy Pedro, head of Team FORCE in Wakefield, Mass., who led the team to Guadalajara. Both Harrison and Travis train under Pedro.

“Kayla proved why she is a world champion,” Pedro said. “Despite not feeling well today, she gutted-out a tough Golden Score match in the semis against the Cuban. She then avenged her loss from the Paris Grand Slam against Myra Aguilar throwing her for yuko with a seionage in the overtime period of the final to win the GOLD, capturing her first Pan Am title.”

“Travis was on fire all day, beating everybody by full points in under two minutes,” Pedro said. “In the final, he lost a heart breaker to the world’s number two player with just two seconds left by a yuko, and he had to settle for silver.”

“Both Kyle Vashkulat and Crystal Ransom were impressive as well,” Pedro said, “turning in bronze medal performances. Both athletes lost tough overtime bouts today, but bounced back strong to finish on the medal stand.”

So USA Judo was glistening today. And it isn’t over. Competition continues tomorrow, Saturday.


Tags: Christal Ransom, Jimmy Pedro, Katie Sell, Kayla Harrison, mobile, Travis Stevens
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