U.S. Olympic Bronze Medalist Marti Malloy got exactly what she wanted: “a win on home soil,” a gold medal victory at the first super-elite international Grand Prix ever held in the United States.
"When I heard there was going to be a Grand Prix on home soil, I wanted gold,” said Malloy of San Jose, CA, on the way to the podium to collect her medal. “This is all I've thought about. I wanted a win on home soil. I've been training very hard for this tournament for the last few months. I wanted to hear the National Anthem, and I wanted U.S. supporters to hear it on home soil. It was great to be on the mat and to hear everyone cheer to USA. It is amazing to feel that support, and I am very proud."
This would be the only medal for the United States today, the first day of competition among more than 40 nations that converged on Miami for a shot at top competition, the valuable international ranking points and a purse worth $100,000. In fact, no nation won more than one gold medal, and Hungary came in first among nations having won only two silver medals and no bronze. For complete results and brackets, go to IPPON.ORG.
Malloy, who trains at the USA Judo National Training Site, San Jose State Judo Club in San Jose, CA, made history last summer when she took a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games alongside Kayla Harrison, who took the nation’s first Olympic gold medal in judo. The momentum has continued on the world stage with the United States climbing the podium at a number of high-profile tournaments around the world, and Malloy added to that momentum this afternoon in Miami.
Malloy went 4-0 through five-minute matches against only the best fighters in this 57 kg division. More than 40 nations sent their best, because only the top raked athletes in the respective nations can compete in Grand Prix tourneys. Judo fighters use floor-pounding throws, 25-second pins, arm bars and chokes to defeat their opponents on the mats. In her final match for gold against Hedvig Karakas of Hungary, Malloy appeared to be in control the entire match, shooting throws, controlling the ground game and finally forcing Karakas to tap with a beautifully crafted armbar.
Just having a tournament of this caliber on U.S. soil was an important indication that this sport is on a new trajectory in the United States, USA Judo officials stated at ceremonies preceding the Grand Prix, which continues tomorrow at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa. Grand Prix tournaments, sanctioned by the International Judo Federation, are key stepping stones for any judo athlete headed to the World Championships and the 2016 Olympic Games, both slated for Rio de Janeiro. They promise big international ranking points for athletes who make the podium, and a share of a purse, in this case, worth $100,000.
Malloy has been targeting this tournament for some time, as she said. Her coach at the Grand Prix today, World Champion and U.S. Olympic Bronze Medalist Mike Swain said just prior to her final match for gold, "We trained really hard. We have a world champ from Japan, Aiko Sato, for one year. Marti trains every day with a world champ. We've focused on special gripping techniques to prepare against the French competitors. All the training has paid off. Marti's goal is to win the World Championship this year. She is physically and mentally prepared to do so. Today, Marti set the pace in all her matches. Marti is going into the final match feeling very confident and very strong. Marti is at a peak condition for this competition."
Competing tomorrow for Team USA at the Grand Prix Miami beginning at 9 a.m. will be:
70 KG WOMEN
Kathleen Sell, USA Judo Training Site, Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, CO
LaQuinta Allen, Onikusu Judo Club, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Leah Fisher, No Club Affiliation, Alexandria, VA
78 KG WOMEN
Samantha Bleier, USA Judo Training Site, Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, CO
Alyssa Gilkey, Denver Judo, Denver, CO
Molly Murtha, Iowa State University Judo, Ames, IA
78+ KG WOMEN
Bianca Lockette, +78kg, Florissant, MO
Annie Atkinson, Zenyu Judo Dojo, Maple Valley, WA
Wendie King, Pittsburgh, PA
81 KG MEN
Jonathan Fernandez, Baragua Judo Kai, Miami, FL
Tony Sangimino, Jason Morris Judo, Glenville, N.Y.
Ross MacBaisey, Rancho Santa Fe, CA
Joshua White, Kokoro Tatsu Martial Arts & Fitness, Decatur, Georgia
90 KG MEN
Jake Larsen, Boulder Judo Training Center/USA Judo Training Site at Olympic Training Center, CO
Colton Brown, Tech Judo, North Bergen, NJ
Brice Rudat, Jason Morris Judo, Glenville, N.Y.
Max Kafka, Pedro's Judo Center/ USA Judo National Team Force, Stoneham, MA
100 KG MEN
Myles Porter,USA Judo Training Site, Olympic Training Center/NYAC, Colorado Springs, CO
Armen Babayan, Valley Judo Institute, Glendale, CA
Ajax Tadehara, Idaho State University Judo Club, Pocatello, ID
Kyle Vashkulat, Jason Morris Judo/NYAC, Glenville, N.Y.
100+ KG MEN
Mark Fletcher, Atlanta Judo Midtown, Atlanta, GA
Akbar Iminov, Spartak Sports Club, Rego Park, N.Y.
Arash Soofiani, Dynamo Sports Club, Beverly Hills, CA
Matthew Brungardt, Silver Lake, KS
By Ernest Pund and Jennifer Garcia, USA Judo Communications