Kayla Harrison, U.S. Favorite To Take Judo Gold At Olympics, Likely To Fight 2008 Olympic Silver, Cuba’s Castillo
MIAMI – May 8, 2012 -- World Champion Kayla Harrison, a U.S. favorite to take gold at the Games this summer in London, is virtually certain to battle the 2008 Olympic silver medalist from Cuba at USA Judo’s internationally sanctioned World Cup in Miami this coming weekend.
Members of the Cuban Olympic Judo Team arrived this week in Miami to train at local clubs and fight in the back-to-back blockbuster World Cup Miami and U.S. Open, May 10-12 at the luxurious Doral Resort and Spa.
Among the Cuban Olympians headed for London and now in Miami is veteran fighter Yalennis Castillo Ramírez, 78 kg, who took silver in the Pan American Championships in Montreal last week and silver at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008.
Harrison, 78 kg (NYAC/Team FORCE, Wakefield, Mass.) is headed to her first Olympic Games and will have just turned 22 when she gets on the plane for London -- Castillo turns 26 this month. Harrison has beaten her three times recently around the world but will step on her first tournament mat this coming week at the World Cup since injuring her MCL while training in Japan in March – Harrison was not in Montreal for the PanAms.
The two are very likely to face each other in the finals at this tournament, said Jimmy Pedro, head coach of U.S. Olympic Judo Team. “Right now Kayla is just coming off an injury so she is not in peak condition. This will be a very tough test for her mentally and physically because it is her first event after the injury.
Every match from here to the Olympics is just training and preparation for London to get Kayla ready to win Gold. London is the only event that matters right now.”
Harrison wowed the world when she took gold at the World Championships in Tokyo in 2010. An avalanche of medals followed for this young woman, who now stands to bring home this nation’s first Olympic gold medal in the sport on her first trip to the Games.
Castillo, meanwhile, has not only been to the Olympics but has taken a silver medal from that pinnacle podium.
Assuming they both reach the finals, they will fight Friday, May 11, at the Doral Resort. Media interested in covering the event should download the one page MEDIA CREDENTIAL FORM and return it to USA Judo as soon as possible according to instructions included.
‘HOUR of POWER’ also at WORLD CUP/US OPEN
for LAST REMAINING SPOT ON US OLYMPIC TEAM
World Cup Miami and the back-to-back U.S. Open are the setting for the “Hour of Power,” a fight-off between Nick Delpopolo, 73 kg (NYAC/Jason Morris Judo, Scotia, NY), and Michael Eldred, 73 kg (Western Idaho Judo Institute, Fruitland, ID) for the last undecided spot on the U.S. Olympic Team.
Both Delpopolo and Eldred qualified for the team but Olympic rules allow each nation to send but one judo fighter per division. USA Judo created the Hour of Power to make that decision. Delpopolo is ranked higher internationally, so if he wins one match, he gets the spot on the team. If Eldred wins the first match, they go two-out-of-three. Each match is five minutes with a three-minute golden-score overtime.
“This is the definition of intense,” Rodriguez said, “a fight for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Judo Team.” The Hour of Power is slated for May 12 a
The winner will join the nation’s finest in the sport who already have locked their positions:
Kayla Harrison, 78 kg (NYAC/Team FORCE, Wakefield, Mass.), World Champion and favorite to take gold for the United States at the Olympics this summer … she would be our first in the sport.
Travis Stevens, 81 kg (NYAC/Team FORCE, Wakefield, Mass.) is also expected to take a medal, having climbed the podium to take gold last year at the super competitive Dusseldorf Grand Prix.
Marti Malloy, 57 kg (USA Judo National Training Site at San Jose State University, CA), has been on a steep trajectory toward that podium in London, climbing from 18th in the world last year to 9th currently. USA Judo expects her to medal.
Kyle Vashkulat, 100 kg (NYAC/Jason Morris Judo, Scotia, NY) qualifies with experience and medals beyond his age as one of the youngest members of the team at 21.
ABOUT USA JUDO
A member organization of the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Judo is responsible for the development, support and selection of Olympic, Pan American and World Championship Teams.
USA Judo is dedicated to the growth and development of the sport of judo at all levels, from grassroots through elite. A member organization of the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Judo is responsible for the development, support and selection of Olympic, Pan American and World Championship Teams. Men’s judo was added to the Olympic program in 1964 at the Games in Tokyo. James Bregman became the first U.S. Olympic medalist in judo when he captured a bronze in 1964. Women’s judo was added to the Olympic program in 1988 when Lynne Roethke won a silver medal for Team USA and Margaret Castro-Gomez earned a bronze.