(Colorado Springs, Colo.) - It was at last year's British Open in West Sussex, United Kingdom that Valerie Gotay (Temecula, Calif./57kg) made her return to international competition after a 10-year retirement, winning a silver medal and beginning a campaign that has made her one of the best judo players in the United States.
Last year, many of Gotay's competitors may have considered her an underdog - a player who most hadn't seen since she qualified for the 1992 Olympic Team at 18-years-old and 48kg.
This time around, following a ninth place result at the Worlds in September and podium finishes in tournaments at the A-Level Korea Open as well as the Pan Am and Pacific Rim Championships, Gotay was a player to watch. She lived up to the billing during Sunday's competition, defeating Yahaira Aguirre (ESP) and Gemma Louise Howell (GBR) both by ippon (instant win) to advance to the semi-finals where she lost by yuko (quarter-point) to Gabrielle Deflorenne (FRA) who also defeated American Anna Palmer (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Olympic Training Center/57kg) en route to an eventual silver medal.
Gotay came back to win the bronze, though, scoring a yuko and three kokas (smallest points) over Jolianne Melancon (CAN) before winning by ippon.
Daniel McCormick (Arlington, Texas/Bedford Kodokon/+100kg) also won a bronze medal - his first in heavyweight senior competition outside the United States.
In the 48kg division, Michelle Sternick (Mansfield, Pa./Mansfield University Judo) and Ann Shiraishi (Elk Grove, Calif./Okubu/APOA Judo Club) each fought for bronze medals, but lost to Toni Christine Prince (GBR) and Bianca Ockedahl (CAN), respectively.
1. Donna Robertson (GBR)
2. Charlotte Farbon (GBR)
3. Toni Christine Prince (GBR)
3. Bianca Ockedahl (CAN)
5. Michele Sternick (Mansfield, Pa./Mansfield University Judo), 1-2.
5. Ann Shiraishi (Elk Grove, Calif./Okubu/APOA Judo Club), 1-2.
1. Ana Carascosa (FRA)
2. Elise Panei (FRA)
3. Sophie Liann Johnstone (GBR)
3. Jodie Carter (GBR)
Also Competed: Jessica Sternick (Manfield, Pa./Mansfield University Judo), 0-1.
1. Sophie Cox (GBR)
2. Gabrielle Deflorenne (FRA)
3. Valerie Gotay (Temecula, Calif./Judo America), 3-1.
3. Caroline Lantoine (FRA)
7. Anna Palmer (Colorado Springs, Colo./Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center), 3-2.
1. Daniel Fernandes (FRA)
2. Thomas Clifford Davis (GBR)
3. Altarlo Arnal Mengod (ESP)
3. Guillaume Fort (FRA)
Also Competed: Harry St. Leger (Brooklyn, N.Y./Starrett Judo Club), 1-2.
1. Bobby Rich (GBR)
2. Winaton Gordon (GBR)
3. Frederic Demontfaucon (FRA)
3. Steven Vidler (GBR)
7. Garry St. Leger (Brooklyn, N.Y./Starrett Judo Club), 2-2
Also Competed: Dariusz Mikoajczak (Brooklyn, N.Y./Starrett Judo Club), 0-2.
1. Sebastian Nolesini (FRA)
2. Brett Embley (GBR)
3. Hiroo Aibara (JPN)
3. Phil Nutter (GBR)
1. Christopher Sherrington (GBR)
2. Zviad Dzincharadze (GBR)
3. Aaron Santisteban (ESP)
3. Daniel McCormick (Arlington, Texas/Bedford Kodokon), 1-2.