TORONTO -- Judoka Travis Stevens had been winless in 2015 and had been in search of a win to boost his confidence.
The two-time Olympian won the men’s -81 kg. gold medal by ippon at the Mississauga Sports Center Monday in Toronto and was in control the entire match.
“Making sure I got just ahead enough to where he had to push the pace, I can kind of dictate what we were doing, when we were doing it,” Stevens said. “It gave me the ability to when I did get put in a bad spot, to just fall down and if I get a penalty, so be it. I knew I could throw him; I just needed a couple of minutes to let him feel the judo.”
Stevens went on the offensive early, after scoring yuko at 1:30, he was able to dominate the remainder of the match until he threw Cuban Ivan Felipe Silva at 3:32 to score ippon and clinch the victory. Victor Penalber of Brazil and Pedro Castro of Colombia each won the bronze medal.
This is Stevens’ second Pan American Games medal as he won gold in Rio in 2007. At his second Olympic appearance in 2012, Stevens missed the podium, finishing fifth. Three years after that disappointment, he was comforted when he reached the top of the podium at a major international meet and feels he is in the right spot on the Road to Rio.
“This has boosted my confidence a ton,” Stevens said. “I haven’t had a good competition here this year, so this is putting me right in the right path to win the (world championship).”
“It means a great deal. I wish I could have done it in London, but a couple of circumstances didn’t let me, but I’m looking forward to it in Rio.”
While gold gave Stevens the confidence to return on the winning path, it was all smiles from his teammate, Jacob Larsen (-90 kg.), who won the bronze medal by utilizing his laid-back, composed strategy.
“Honestly I have no idea (how I won),” Larsen. “Usually when I go out there my mind just goes blank and I just do it from muscle memory from what I’ve been training to do and it worked.”
Larsen defeated Christian Schmidt of Argentina by waza-ari, staying calm after trading throws through the match. According to Larsen, the Pan American Games served as one of his toughest tournaments due to the strength in South American competition as he missed out on medaling at the 2011 Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“They come out here and they go hard, it’s definitely one of the tougher (tournaments) I’ve been to,” Larsen said.
Tiago Camilo of Brazil defeated 2012 Olympic silver medalist Asley Gonzalez of Cuba to win the gold medal in the men’s -90 kg. while Mexico’s Isao Cardenas also won bronze.