Marisol Torro and Other USA Judo Cadets and Juniors Gaining Ground with International Experience

Oct. 15, 2019, 8:24 p.m. (ET)


It comes as no surprise to those familiar with international judo that North America, and specifically the United States, is somewhat of a “judo island.”  To get beyond the access to three large countries where judo is still growing, U.S. athletes are constantly travelling to international locales where they can participate in both international competitions and training opportunities, with access to a variety of international styles and athletes.  The fruit of the athletes’ travel labor is surely paying off in the Cadet and Junior ranks. And right now, one of the shining examples is Marisol Torro.

The -52 Cadet women’s judo player will be one of 16 athletes who will be representing the United States at the 2019 Junior World Judo Championships in Marrakesh, Morocco from October 16-20. In her last four cadet competitions, she has finished no less than 5th place, winning gold in July at the Panamerican Cadet Championships and is currently ranked 5th in the IJF Cadet World Rankings. So impressive is Torro, she has trained with senior team -52 Olympian Angelica Delgado to help both get ready for various high-level competitions. Her constant tenacity to be the best has been inspiring to many judoka who are younger, like her sister Luchia. The two often train and travel together to tournaments in an effort to push each other to reach the podium.

Perhaps what’s more impressive about Torro is her humility in the face of success. Coming off an impressive showing last month with a fifth place finish at the 2019 Cadet World Championships, she decided to send a note of appreciation to USA Judo. Torro said, “I would like to thank you, Joe and Enid Ragan, and Resideo for funding me to compete in the Cadet World Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan. It was an unforgettable experience in terms of both judo and culture. At previous world championships, I never made it to the finals block, but this time I did. I experienced what it felt like to be in the spotlight when they filmed me as I walked to the mat and projected my stats on a large screen. It was very professional and cool to be a part of! The bronze medal match was bittersweet because I lost, but at the same time proved that I am progressing. It demonstrated to me that I truly have the potential to reach the podium at a world-level if I continue to persevere. I now feel even more motivated and excited to train.”

Torro is not the only athlete benefiting from USA judo international strategies regarding Cadets and Juniors. As USA Judo works to develop its elite athlete pipeline, it has sent Cadet and Junior-level athletes to Europe over the last two Summers for up to two weeks at a time. This has allowed these up and coming judo players to get experience with a multitude of styles, athletes and overall experiences of travelling, living, training and competing in several European countries.  It is this kind of experience that is needed to allow them to grow and improve their judo to be competitive on the world stage.

“Due to the expenses of time and money, it is always challenging for American judokas at all ages to get the kind of diverse international experience they need to be successful in international competitions” said Gerry Navarro, Chair of USA Judo’s Jr. High Performance Committee.  “To get the best return on investment, we need to provide opportunities to our younger athletes so that they are better prepared for the rigors, techniques and overall judo they’ll experience as they travel abroad and eventually compete at the Senior level.”

USA Judo is starting to see early results from athletes who took or are taking part in the initiative like Jacob More, who is the 2nd ranked -60 junior judoka in the world. In the summer of 2018, Jacob was the first U.S gold medalist at an IJF Cadet event. Nefeli Papadkis, who also achieved success at the junior levels, is now in the 26th position in the IJF international judo rankings and is currently qualified for Olympic Games selection based on her current ranking. 

USA Judo wants to extend its sincere appreciation to the generous support provided by Joe & Enid Ragan and Resideo for USA Judo’s Cadet and Junior World Championships’ Teams.  Thank you for supporting these athletes’ goals of today to achieve their dreams of tomorrow.

Good luck to the USA Judo Junior World Championships team competing in Morocco this week!