|Travis Stevens celebrates after winning gold at the 2016 World Judo Masters on May 28, 2016 in Guadalajara, Mexico.|
Travis Stevens has all but locked up a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team and put himself in the mix for a medal in Rio after winning the 81 kg. division Saturday at the World Judo Masters tournament in Guadalajara, Mexico.
A two-time Olympian who placed fifth at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Stevens defeated Belgium’s Joachim Bottieau to become the first U.S. men’s judoku to win gold at the World Masters competition. Entry to the elite tournament is by invitation only and features the top athletes from around the world in each division.
Currently ranked No. 14 in the world, a position likely to improve when the ranking update is released next week, Stevens opened the competition with a win over No. 27-ranked Nacif Elias of Liberia, which was followed by a victory over No. 16 Ivan Felipe Silva Morales of Cuba. That set up a semifinal meeting with Roman Moustopoulos, also resulting in a win over the 10th-ranked Greek.
The final paired Stevens against No. 15-ranked Bottieau. After Bottieau was assessed three penalties in the first two minutes, Stevens was in control of the scoreboard and could dictate the action. A throw with 18 seconds left sealed the win for the American.
The win continues a string of success for the 30-year-old, who won gold at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games and bronze at the Pan American Championships. His gold medal at the Rio 2007 Pan American Games began a run of three consecutive Pan Am gold-medal bout appearances (he took silver in Guadalajara in 2011).