A young team of U.S. athletes took a bronze and a fifth place on the first day of the highly Competitive Flanders Cup in Belgium today. Competition continues tomorrow with more young U.S. athletes shooting to climb the podium at this prestigious tournament.
Lauren De Smidt ( Club Olympia Judo, Fond du lac, WI ), under 15 years old and 63 kg, won four matches on the way to earning a bronze medal for Team USA today in Lommel, Belgium. De Smidt lost her opening match in pool play to an opponent from the Netherlands in golden score. She came back and won three consecutive matches, two by ippon, to reach the semifinal. She lost a tough distance match to another talented player from the Netherlands to end up in the bronze medal match. She earned her way onto the podium by dominating her opponent from Belgium in an ippon victory.
"I'm excited with my result and I look forward to seeing what other opportunities will arise in the future " explained a jubilant De Smidt.
"It's extremely exciting to experience international success not only as a player, but as a coach," said said her coach, 1988 Olympic Silver Medalist Lynn Roethke (Club Olympia Judo, Fond du lac, WI). "Lauren showed great heart and determination in fighting through six matches and capturing the bronze medal. Her future is extremely bright and I'm confident that she's only barely touched her true potential."
Caroline Zieba (Boise, Idaho, Treasure Valley Judo Club) got off to a great start by winning her first match by ippon in less than 10 seconds. She followed that with another win over a fighter from Great Britain by yuko. In her third match she lost to a player from Belgium. Based on the point system in the pool play, she just missed advancing to the medal round, finishing 5th place.
Also competing today was Gabrielle Proksa ( Manchester, New Hampshire, Granite State Judo Institute ), who fought two tough matches. Competition continues tomorrow. Among other U.S. fighters will be George and Annie Truong (U.S. Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, CO).
The entire U.S. team includes: George Truong, Annie Truong, Grant Johnson, Lauren De Smidt, Cole Freeman, Caroline Zieba, Gabrielle Proksa and Arthur Ghukasyan.