After finishing third with eight medals (one gold, one silver, six bronzes) at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, Team USA will return to the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto with its eyes on the prize.
Highlighting the women’s roster is world No. 1 Kayla Harrison, who won the gold in Guadalajara and the 2012 Olympic Games in the -78 kg. event, becoming the first Olympic judo champion in U.S. history. Joining Harrison in Toronto at her first Pan Am Games is Marti Malloy, who took bronze in the -57 kg. event at the 2012 Olympics. Malloy is currently ranked No. 4 in the world in her weight class.
“My training schedule has been nonstop,” Malloy said. “There is no off-season for judo so I have literally been training full force since the beginning of the year in preparation for all the competitions necessary for Olympic qualification. But I feel great and am ready to reap the rewards of all my hard work.”
Malloy and Harrison will compete alongside four other women and six male judokas. Of the six men, only one has Pan Am Games experience with Travis Stevens winning gold in the -81 kg. event in 2007 at Rio de Janeiro. He then finished fifth at the 2012 Olympics, narrowly missing a medal.
Team USA has been successful in judo, regularly placing top three in the medal count along with Brazil and Cuba, but has not placed in the top two since 1999.
“I am looking forward to producing some great results from judo that will help the USA win the medal tally at the Pan Am Games,” said head coach Jimmy Pedro, who is a two-time Olympic bronze medalist in the -73 kg. competition in 1996 and 2004.
Weight classes are divided into different days of competition with each respective weight class competing in one of the four days. All competitions begin with preliminaries and quarterfinals, repechages and semifinals, and continue to bronze and gold-medal matches.
Although the Pan Am Games are not a qualifier for the 2016 Olympic Games, it will give the judokas a chance to compete against some of the top names around the world in preparation for Rio.
Judo competitions begin July 11 and continue through the 14th at the Mississauga Sports Centre.
Jamie Han is a student in the Sports Media Certificate program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.