(Montreal) - Two members of Team USA each won their second Pan American Championship titles on Friday in Montreal on a day when the Americans finished the second Olympic qualifier with a total of 10 medals - the most won by a U.S. Team at this event since 2002.
Team USA also won the third place women's overall award behind Cuba and Brazil and the second place fourth place men's award behind Cuba, Brazil and Venezuela.
Ryan Reser (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center / 73kg) and Valerie Gotay (Harlingen, Texas / USA Judo National Training Site a Harlingen / 57kg) each beat Brazilian opponents in the finals to win their titles.
After winning gold along with Gotay at his first Pan Am Championships in 2005, Reser didn't place a last year's event and needed a top five finish to secure his slot at the Pan American Games (July 19-22 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), the third Olympic qualifying event.
Determined to return to the podium, Reser started off the day fast picking up Less Arbaiza (GUA) in the first 30 seconds of his opening round and appeared to hold Arbaiza in mid-air for several seconds before dropping Arbaiza on his back to win the match by ippon (instant win) with a te guruma (hand wheel throw).
Reser laughed when asked about Arbaiza's air time. "Yeah, those first three matches were all pretty much nerves," he said. "I wasn't so much nervous like I was scared I was going to lose, it was more like nervous because I knew I had to win."
Reser picked up a second quick win with another te guruma in the second match, throwing Pablo Azzi (URU) for ippon. In the semifinals, Reser beat Marcos Figuerero (DOM) by points to advance to the final against Pedro Guedes (BRA) who won a silver medal at the Brazil World Cup three weeks ago.
In the final, Reser threw Guedes for a yuko (quarter-point) score with a minute and 41 seconds left in the match that guaranteed him the gold medal.
"I started off with kind of a rough year, but it's been going u since Senior Nationals in April, so I'm glad the hard work is paying off. The game plan now is to get in as many matches as I can between now and the Pan Am Games. I'm going to Tre-Torri (an Italian B-Level tournament) and then El Salvador and the Dominican Republic and then I'm training in Japan for two weeks," Reser said.
Reser credits many people with having a hand in his resurgent success.
"Definitely I'd like to thank Ed (Liddie, USA Judo Director of Athlete Performance) for working with me and my parents and girlfriend as well as the folks at Spectrum Rehabilitation Center and Wellness who've been working with me on my new training program," he continued.
After beating Yagnelys Mestre (CUB) by a waza-ari (half-point) to a yuko in the first round, Gotay gave her fans a scare when she was handed a penalty with two minutes left in the match against Yadinis Amaris (COL). Amaris earned a penalty of her own with 30 seconds left and Gotay finished off the match with a double leg takedown for a koka (smallest points) with two seconds left.
In the final, Gotay fought Danielle Zangrando (BRA) who beat Gotay three weeks ago in Havana, Cuba at the Golden Judoguis Championships. Down by an early yuko, the match quickly became "the battle of the penalties" as Gotay was given two shidos to Zangrando's three. Although she had the score advantage in the last minute, Gotay continued to attack, earning a yuko score in the last minute to go with the waza-ari earned from Zangrando's penalties to win the gold.
Following the medal rounds, Gotay was given the "Fair Play" Award by the Pan American Judo Union.
"Ryan and Val both definitely stepped up today and we were all very proud of both of them. Both of these guys fought some tough opponents, but held on until the end," said Team USA Coach Jason Morris (Glenville, N.Y.) "But not only were those two impressive, but the whole team has looked great over the past two days and winning 10 medals shows that we're heading in a good direction."
Alexa Liddie (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center) won Team USA's only silver medal, pinning Andrea Madgett (CAN) in the first round of the non-Olympic 44kg divison. Liddie was leading in her second round against Maria Velazquez (CAN). Liddie threw Velazquez, but when the throw wasn't called for points, Velazquez moved straight into groundwork, choking Liddie to win the match.
Heidi Moore (Englewood, Colo. / Denver Judo) won the third medal for the U.S. women, taking bronze in the non-Olympic Open weight division. After being pinned by Mabel Henriquez (DOM), Moore armbarred Mavi Mendoza (MEX) to advance to the bronze medal match.
Melissa Mojica (PUR) was slated to fight Moore, but withdrew prior to the match.
Adler Volmar (Coral Springs, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami) also won a bronze medal in the Open division. Volmar beat Pablo Figueroa (PUR) in the first round, throwing Figueroa for a koka (smallest points) in Golden Score (overtime). Volmar then beat Sergio Garcia (MEX) to advance to the semifinals against Oscar Braison (CUB) who threw Volmar for ippon.
Volmar then dropped down to the bronze medal match where he beat Carlos Cisneros (ARG) by a shido (penalty).
Fifteen-year-old Kyle Taketa (Torrance, Calif. / Gardena Judo) is Team USA's youngest medalist, winning bronze in the non-Olympic 55kg division. After a first round bye and losing to Sergio Poll (VEN) in the semifinals, Taketa dropped down to face bronze medalist Hiram Cruz (PUR) in the bronze medal match. Taketa and Cruz fought in April at the USA Judo Senior National Championships with Cruz winning the title. This time Taketa forced Cruz into a last-minute penalty to win the match.
Justin Flores (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center / San Shi) lost his opening match a 66kg to three-time World Cup medalist Leonardo Cunha (BRA) by a shido and a yuko (quarter-point).
After a several hour break, Flores moved down to the repechage clearly refreshed, throwing each of his next three opponents for quick ippons.
In the bronze medal match Flores fought Sasha Mehmedovic (CAN) who Flores beat earlier in the season. This time, though, Mehmedovic beat Flores by a yuko and a penalty, leaving Flores scoreless.
Nick Kossor (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) won his first match at 60kg by ippon in the final two minutes, but lost his next two against eventual silver medalist Denílson Lourenço (BRA) and Juan Postigos (PER).
Jeanette Rodriguez (Coral Springs, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami) had the day's hardest draw, facing reigning World Champion Yanet Bermoy (CUB) after a first-round bye.
Rodriguez held her own against Bermoy, keeping the Cuban's throwing attempts to a minimum, but Rodriguez got thrown for a waza-ari with just over 30 seconds left.
In her next match against former World Cup medalist Isabelle Latulippe (CAN), Rodriguez was thrown in the second minute, eliminating her from the event.
Rodriguez's teammate Franchesca Durand (Coral Springs, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami) also lost in the first round on points to 2006 Pan Am silver medalist Melissa Rodriguez (ARG) who then lost to Paris Super World Cup Champion Sheila Espinosa (CUB).
Pan Am competition continues on Saturday with the team event and kata (forms) divisons.
Complete results from Friday are as follows:
1. Maria Velazquez (VEN)
2. Alexa Liddie (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center)
3. Andrea Madgett (CAN)
1. Yanet Bermoy (CUB)
2. Daniela Polzin (BRA)
3. Glenda Miranda (ECU)
3. Lisseth Orozco (COL)
5. Isabelle Latulippe (CAN
5. Paula Paretto (ARG)
Also Competed: Jeanette Rodriguez (Coral Springs, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami), 0-2
1. Sheila Espinosa (CUB)
2. Maria Garcia (DOM)
3. Érika Miranda (BRA)
3. Flor Velazques (VEN)
5. Aminata Sall (CAN)
5. Yulieth Sanchez (COL)
Also Competed: Franchesca Durand (Coral Springs, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami), 0-1
1. Valerie Gotay (Harlingen, Texas / USA Judo National Training Site at Harlingen)
2. Danielle Zangrando (BRA)
3. Yadinis Amaris (COL)
3. Yagnelis Mestre (CUB)
5. Roxana Garcia (PUR)
5. Ange Jean-Baptiste (HAI)
1. Idaleys Ortiz (CUB)
2. Priscila Marques (BRA)
3. Amy Cotton (CAN)
3. Heidi Moore (Englewood, Colo. / Denver Judo)
5. Mabel Henriquez (DOM)
5. Melissa Mojica (PUR)
1. Sergio Poll (VEN)
2. Dagoberto Botello (DOM)
3. Kyle Taketa (Torrance, Calif. / Gardena Judo)
3. John Jairo Futtinico (COL)
5. Hiram Cruz (PUR)
5. David Ancor (CAN)
1. Frazer Will (CAN)
2. Denílson Lourenço (BRA)
3. Javier Guedez (VEN)
3. Miguel Albarracin (ARG)
5. Jose Romero (ECU)
5. Juan Postigos (PER)
Also Competed: Nick Kossor (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center), 1-2
1. Yordanis Arencibia (CUB)
2. Leandro Cunha (BRA)
3. Sasha Mehmedovic (CAN)
3. Ludwing Ortiz (VEN)
5. Justin Flores (Glenville, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center / San Shi)
5. Roberto Ibanez (ECU)
1. Ryan Reser (Colorado Springs, Colo. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Olympic Training Center)
2. Pedro Guedes (BRA)
3. Nicolas Tritton (CAN)
3. Ronald Girones (CUB)
5. Josue Garcia (PUR)
5. Marcos Figuero (DOM)
1. Carlos Honorato (BRA)
2. Oscar Breison (CUB)
3. Franklin Perez (DOM)
3. Adler Volmer (Coral Springs, Fla. / USA Judo National Training Site at North Miami)
5. Kamel Larbi (CAN)
5. Carlos Cisneros (ARG)