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US Olympic Judo Team 2012: Updated News & Analysis for America's Squad

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images


 (Featured Columnist) on June 21, 2012

After securing just one bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games—Ronda Rousey's middleweight bronze was the first piece of hardware in U.S. women's history—Team USA has nowhere to go but up in the 2012 Games.

The national squad hopes to once again make history in London, with eyes set on multiple medals, including the tantalizing possibility of Gold No. 1—never before has the United States captured the top prize in the sport traditionally dominated by Japan.

Judo has been a medal-producing Olympic sport since 1964 for men and 1992 for women, so snapping the 58-year goldless streak would be huge for the Americans.

                                                            Key Athletes

                                                         Nick Laham/Getty Images

To help get Team USA back to the judo podium, the national judo program has recruited the very best athletes.

Key pieces include:

Kayla Harrison (-78kg). (Also pictured above)

Since coming onto the adult international circuit following the 2008 Games, 21-year-old Kayla Harrison has impressed and restored hopes of a U.S. Olympic gold.

Harrison shocked the world in 2010, winning the women's half-heavyweight gold at the World Judo Championships in Japan followed by a 2011 bronze in Paris and gold during the Pan American Judo Championships in Guadalajara (2011).

Harrison is the United States' best shot to make history by taking the first gold medal in the history of the national Olympic program.

Nick Delpopolo (-73kg).

Nick Delpopolo

Another Team USA youngster, Nick Delpopolo will hope to shock the judo world in July as he stands an outside shot at crashing an Olympic finals or bronze medal match.

If Harrison is all-buzz to take the women's gold, Delpopolo will hope to sneak in with the men's. Competing in the 73-kilogram event, Delpopolo will be the lightest American male in London, though his chances of capturing the prize might weight heaviest. 

Travis Stevens (-81kg).

Travis Stevens

On the men's side, Olympic veteran Travis Stevens hopes to place in the half-middleweight class, having tied for ninth in Beijing.

Since 2008, Stevens has won Pan American bronze in San Salvador (2010) and silver one year later. He will hope that like Harrison's Guadalajara gold, his silver success will translate to an Olympic medal.


Other Key Judo Team Members:

The United States will also field:


Marti Malloy (-57kg).

Marti Malloy

World Championship Teams: 2007 (Ninth)

Pan American Games Teams: 2007 (Fifth)

Pan American Championship Teams: 2008


Kyle Vashkulat (-100kg).
Kyle Vashkulat

Senior World Championship Teams: 2010

Senior Pan American Championship Teams: 2010 (Bronze), 2009

Junior World Championship Teams: 2009, 2008



                               U.S.A. Chances and Challengers in London


                                         Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

If the United States is to capture its first gold, it will have to run through—or over—Japan.

Judo star Yang Xiuli of China won the 2008 women's 78-kilogram event, a significant fact even though Yang herself will not be competing in London. Instead, the Olympic champion has become a critical training test for American Kayla Harrison.

For her part, Harrison made a point of going to the Grand Prix in China and Grand Slam in Tokyo just to get a taste at what gold-level feels like.

"The point of going to those tournaments was to get my hands on her because she's the Olympic champion and I had never fought her in a competition," she said. 

The new top dogs in the 78 division are Japan's Akari Ogata and world No. 1 Mayra Aguiar of Brazil. Either foe could defeat Harrison, though U.S. Olympic coach Jimmy Pedro holds out high hopes for Harrison's chances: "Kayla's ready to fight anybody, anytime."

Let's hope that time is comes this year in London.

                                                           When to Watch

                                                        Warren Little/Getty Images

When: Both the men's and women's judo competition will kick off on July 28 at 4:30 a.m. Eastern Time, with the men's 60-kilogram and women's 48 bronze scheduled for that very same day at 9:00 a.m ET, followed by the men's and women's gold medal final in the 60 and 48, respectively, at about 11 a.m. ET. The competition continues through Aug. 3 with multiple medals awarded each day.

The competition runs from lightest to heaviest weight class, which means the U.S. team's best shot at gold—Kayla Harrison—will compete later in the competition, on Aug. 2. The women's 78-kilogram bronze finals are scheduled that day, with the gold final immediately thereafer.

TelevisionNBC Universal and NBCOlympics.com are your homes for all Olympic Games coverage. 

Venue Information: The ExCeL Exhibition Centre—ExCeL stands for Exhibition Centre London—will feature the judo competition of the XXX Olympiad. Located on the London Docklands between Canary Wharf and the London City Airport, the ExCeL will also host boxing, fencing, taekwondo, table tennis, weightlifting and wrestling.



                                                       Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Though Japan will likely capture the greatest medal tally, this is Team USA's year to shine.

Though Kayla Harrison will have a tough challenge in trying for her first gold, the youngster will still land on the medal podium—the only question is, where?

Expect at least a silver from Harrison, while men's athlete Nick Delpopolo sneaks in with a surprise bronze.

SOURCE: bleacherreport.com


                     COUNTDOWN LONDON 2012


                   "CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON LONDON 2012"




Gold: Tomoko Fukumi, Japan

Silver: Sarah Menezes, Brazil

Bronze: Urantsetseg Munkhbat, Mongolia, Shugen Wu, China


Gold: Misato Nakamura, Japan

Silver: Bundmaa Munkhbaatar, Mongolia

Bronze: Natalia Kuziutina, Russia, Erika Miranda, Brazil


Gold: Kaori Matsumoto, Japan

Silver: Rafaela Silva, Brazil

Bronze: Automne Pavia, France, Telma Monteiro, Portugal


Gold: Yoshie Ueno, Japan

Silver: Gevrise Emane, France

Bronze: Lili Xu, China, Anicka van Emden, Netherlands


Gold: Lucie Decosse, France

Silver: Haruka Tachimoto, Japan

Bronze: Edith Bosch, Netherlands, Ye-Sul Hwang, South Korea


Gold: Akari Ogata, Japan

Silver: Kayla Harrison, U.S.A.

Bronze: Audrey Tcheumeo, France, Mayra Aguiar, Brazil

78-kilogram plus

Gold: Megumi Tachimoto, Japan

Silver: Wen Tong, China

Bronze: Elena Ivashchenko, Russia, Lucija Polavder, Slovenia



Gold: Rishod Sobiroz, Uzbekistan

Silver: Hirofumi Yamamoto, Japan

Bronze: Amiran Papinashvili, Georgia, Georgii Zantaraia, Ukraine


Gold: Masashi Ebinuma, Japan

Silver: Tsagaanbaatar Khashbaatar, Mongolia

Bronze: Alim Gadanov, Russia, Leandro Cunha, Brazil


Gold: Ki-Chun Wang, South Korea

Silver: Riki Nakaya, Japan

Bronze: Mansur Isaev, Russia, Ugo Legrand, France


Gold: Jae-Bum Kim, South Korea

Silver: Leandro Guilheiro

Bronze: Takahiro Nakai, Japan, Travis Stevens, U.S.A.


Gold: Daiki Nishiyama, Japan

Silver: Ilias Iliadis, Greece

Bronze: Dilshod Choriev, Uzbekistan, Asley Gonzalez, Cuba


Gold: Takamasa Anai, Japan

Silver: Henk Grol, Netherlands

Bronze: Maxim Rakov, Kazakhstan, Tuvshinbayar Naidan, Mongolia

100-kilogram plus

Gold: Teddy Riner, France

Silver: Sung-Min Kim, South Korea

Bronze: Andreas Toelzer, Germany, Islam El Shehaby, Egypt



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Judo at London 2012

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