(SAN ANTONIO, Texas -July 21, 2007)– The competition was fierce on the first day of fights at the 2007 USA Judo National Junior Olympic Championships. With more than 700 athletes between the ages of six and 19 expected to participate, the atmosphere was intense as medals were awarded and outstanding finishes were witnessed.
The event concludes Sunday, July 22, with the IJF-Junior (under 20-year-olds) division welcoming the highest caliber juniors in the nation to the mat for day two of competition in San Antonio. The first matches will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Freeman Coliseum.
“We had high expectations for growth and intensity of the competition here at the USA Judo National Junior Olympic Championships,” said Jim Hrbek (San Antonio, Texas), USA Judo Chair of Junior Development. The competition has been excellent. The depth of the divisions is good, and the quality of judo is all we could have hoped for.”
Among the top stories was the gold medal finish by Katelyn Bouyssou (Hope, R.I. / Mayo Quanchi Judo) in the Juvenile A 44kg division. Bouyssou, who is currently undefeated outside the United States, became the youngest player ever to earn a Senior Elite National Ranking when she was just 12-years-old.
In the gold medal match against Darya Cogswell (Denver, Colo. / Northglenn Judo), Bouyssou firmly secured the title with a critical throw for ippon in five seconds. With father and coach Serge by her side, Bouyssou will return to the mat Sunday in the IJF-Junior match.
For this year’s event, USA Judo wanted to create a buzz among the age groups and provide an outlet to heighten the overall match experience.
“We changed the schedule to allow younger competitors to take part in the IJF division,” said Hrbek, “and as a result, we anticipate the change will elevate the level of competition by outstanding youth trying to make it in the older division.”
“The foremost focus from USA Judo is to start as early as possible in the development process to help young athletes get a taste of international competition,” said USA Judo Board Member Grace Jividen (Denver, Colo.), a 1992 U.S. Olympian and six-time World Team member. “It is critical that young athletes have that opportunity to compete at a higher level and go for the gold. They get to go out there and have fun, but at the same time get an Olympic exhibition. You can’t ask for anything more than that.”
An athlete who has had recent success on the senior level where he won bronze at the Pan Am Championships in Montreal just two months ago, Kyle Taketa (Torrance, Calif. / Gardena Judo) was having a great time on the floor with his fellow juniors.
“It really feels different because I haven’t been fighting kids my own age,” noted 15-year-old Taketa. “Most recently I have been going up against people two times my age, so to come here I feel more comfortable.”
The comfort led to Taketa snatching the gold in his division. He defeated his fellow teammate in his first match, and finished with ippon in both his second and third rounds.
Presented with the Outstanding Judoka Award, Joshua Villani (Bellevue, Wash. / Ippon Dojo) fought in a deep division, defeating last year’s quadruple crown winner twice. The Sportsman Award was given to Shaniqua Brown (Atlanta, Ga. / Waka Mu Sha Judo) and Antonio Rodriguez (Miami, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami) were recognized for the best overall technique.