Day One Puts Ambitious Young Fighters On Podium At Junior Olympic Champs In Irving TX

By Ernest Pund | June 29, 2013, 1:24 a.m. (ET)

June 28, 2013 - Medals will be going home with young guns from all across the country, Hawaii to New York, as Day One comes to a close on USA Judo’s ultimate competition for young judo fighters, the Junior Olympic Championships, in Irving, Texas.

Taking three gold medals today was the team from USA Judo Training Site, Ki-Itsu-Sai, in the  Coconut Creek, including sisters 12-year-old Giovanna Prado, 40 kg., and 14-year-old Gabriela Prado, 48 kg., of Coral Springs. The Prado sisters, nieces of Ki-Itsu-Sai head coach Jhonny Prado, were joined by Ki-Itsu-Sai teammate 17-year-old Adonis Diaz, 55 kg., of Hialeah, in taking the top spots on the podium.

“We had great results today. We’re looking forward to tomorrow and hoping to get more gold to end as one of the best clubs in the nation as we’ve been doing since 1999,” said coach Prado.

Taking more gold from the South Florida hotbed were athletes of Somerset Academy-Panther Judo in Pembroke Pines, 12-year-old Mia Liu, 64 kg., 16-year-old Ashlyn White, 48 kg., and Daniel Valledor, 48 kg. Also from South Florida taking gold was Sergio Aguilar, 36 kg., of Budokan Dojo in Miami. From Cape Coral, FL, was Christina Paccione, 28 kg., to take gold. And from Brandon, FL, was Hannah Wagner, 52 kg., to take gold.

Home state of Texas was also represented repeatedly on the podium with Mariah Holguin, 13, of Universal Judo in San Antonio taking gold in her 44 kg. division, 16-year-old Mackenzie Williams, 70+ kg., of Becerra Judo & Jujitsu Club, and 15-year-old Devin Sobay, 90+ kg., of Texoma Judo in Wichita Falls all taking gold. Also taking gold from Becerra Judo was Joshua Veler, 52 kg., and Geronimo Saucedo, 64 kg.,

Jim Hrbek, head coach of Universal Judo and chairman of USA Judo’s Junior Athlete Performance Committee, said of his student, “I am very happy with Mariah's performance. This is her first year of eligibility in this age group and she has already worked into the number one position at her weight. More than this single championship and ranking I am very proud of her effort and level of commitment. This is especially important because we are aiming at long- term development and success. … Mariah is one of a growing group of younger age athletes that is gaining momentum and should serve to put real pressure on the older juniors and also many seniors in the not too distant future.”

Coming all the way from Hawaii to take a gold medal today was 13-year-old Bailey Hoshino, 36 kg., of Hawaii Judo Academy. And from the Massachussets club of U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist Kayla Harrison and 2012 U.S. Olympic Judo Coach Jimmy Pedro, was 14-year-old Kaelin O’Sullivan, 64 kg., who took gold in her division.

Go to RESULTS to see more winners who climbed the podium today. Day two of competition begins tomorrow morning at the Irving Convention Center, where more than 500 kids and teens have registered for a shot at the best young competition in the country. On Sunday, international competition will be held. Up for grabs are several wild card spots on two important USA Judo junior world teams, including the U.S. Cadet World Team that will compete at the Cadet World Championships in Miami in August.

Athletes at the Junior Olympics, ages 5 through 17 (20 for international divisions), use throws and 20-second pins to best their opponents. Kids 12 (born in 2000) and older can also use chokes to force a submission (tapping). And those 14 (born in 1998) and older can use armbars to force submission (tapping).

This is the third time USA Judo has held the Junior Olympic Championships at the Irving Convention Center.

Some facts about judo:

  • Judo was founded in 1882 in Japan by Jigoro Kano. It is derived from jujitsu.
  • Judo has been an Olympic sport since 1964.
  • Kayla Harrison (USA Judo Training Site, Pedro’s Judo/NYAC, Wakefield, Mass.) won the nation’s first Olympic Gold Medal in the sport at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
  • Judo means “the gentle way.”
  • Central to Kano’s teachings of judo are the principles of “maximum efficiency, minimum effort” and “mutual welfare and benefit.”
  • Sensei Keiko Fukuda, who passed away Feb. 9 in the San Francisco Bay Area where she lived and taught judo, was the first, and only, woman to receive the rank of 10th dan, awarded by USA Judo in 2011.
  • Judo is the second most practiced sport in the world … soccer is first.

By Ernest Pund, USA Judo Communications