Kayla Harrison takes SILVER At Grand Slam Tokyo
December 11, 2011 - Marching hard toward the Olympics in London next year, Team USA’s Kayla Harrison took a silver medal at the Grand Slam Tokyo today.
Harrison won three out of four rounds, including a victory against her nemesis Mayra Aguiar from the judo stronghold of Brazil.
Harrison, 78 kg (NYAC/Team FORCE, Wakefield, Mass.) began her climb decisively against Canada’s Marylise Levesque. Harrison dominated the gripping game, threw Levesque with ouchi gari for wazari early in the match and then with ippon seionage for a second wazari to win.
In the second round, Harrison faced Slovenia’s Anamari Velensek. Again dominating the grip, Kayla controlled the sleeve and threw Velensek with ko uchi sutemi for wazari, then held the lead to win the match.
That victory put Harrison in the semi-finals against Augiar of Brazil. Harrison stepped out to dominate and did just that, slowing the match then countering her opponent’s uchimata with a foot sweep for wazari half way through the fight. The battle for the grip continued, Harrison finally pinning Augiar for the win.
Harrison began her final match against Japan’s Akari Ogata well with gripping, making solid attacks. Ogata was penalized, Harrison said she make a weak attack that Ogata countered to win a yuko. Harrison kept the heat on but the match went to a ground fight and Ogata pinned Harrison for the win.
Harrison said she felt good about the tournament, that her matches strategically were well played, determined mostly by the gripping game. “She made a few mistakes on the mat that we can correct,” said her coach at the tournament, Jim Pedro Sr. of Pedro’s Judo in Wakefield, Mass. His son, Jimmy Pedro, is the two- time Olympic bronze medalist and head coach of the U.S. Olympic Judo Team.
It was in 2010 that Harrison took the World Championship in Tokyo, claiming that pinnacle spot at a very young age – Harrison is now 21 years old. Today’sSilver victory was not at a World Championship, but a Grand Slam tournament is about as close as a fighter can get. And to have a Grand Slam in Tokyo, the homeland of the sport, makes this perhaps the most prestigious Grand Slam on earth.
Competition was intense – 62 countries sent nearly 400 fighters total. Japan had 56 on the mats. Russia was represented by 22 and Korea had 27. Team USA had seven judoka present.
Japan dominated with 11 gold medals, five silver and 10 bronze. Russia followed with two gold, two silver and one bronze.
At this elite level of competition, however, and at this point in time, fast approaching the Olympics in London next year, this tournament is about much more than winning.
Said Pedro Sr., “The idea is that we weren't peaking for these tournaments and we're using these as training so getting results from them is a bonus. We’re just trying to fight the people that she (Harrison) will be fighting in the Olympics to see how we can make adjustments for the Olympics."
Kayla Harrison Takes Gold At Grand Prix in China
"This is a huge win for Kayla,” said Jimmy Pedro, Jr., her coach who was back in the states. “One of the purposes for this trip was for Kayla to get a chance to compete against the Chinese girl because she has never fought her before. Getting a chance to fight her in the final in China and beating her by ippon couldn't have worked out better!" he said. Pedro is the head coach of the US Olympic Judo Team.
Pedro’s dad, Jim Pedro Sr., coached Harrison overseas first to take silver in Tokyo at a Grand Slam just a week ago and then in China today. "We had planned on using these tournaments for training,” said Pedro, Sr. “The most important thing is the Olympics. So in Tokyo we didn't know what to expect because we didn't peak for that tournament. In Tokyo, beating the eighth seed from Slovenia and then beating the number four woman in the world, the Brazilian, was key.”
Pedro Sr. continued, “We feel as if Kayla is ahead of schedule right now, coming close to winning a gold medal in Tokyo. Then going into the Grand Prix after a high in Tokyo we weren't sure if Kayla would have a let-down. The whole idea of us coming here was to get matches in, and to see how she matches up with certain people for the Olympics. We were able to get key matches in with the number-two Japanese girl and then the Olympic champion from China who she's never fought. Having three ippons, one with an armlock and two with throws, while also having a couple strategic matches, will give her the experience she needs for the Olympics and that's really what these tournaments are all about.”
Harrison’s dramatic success has had an impact on the field competitors and how other teams now view her. “Now that other countries are scouting Kayla,” Pedro Sr. said, “they are constantly changing the way they play her. But if she (Kayla) continues to work and improve we will be able to add to her repertoire and they won't be able to catch her."
“Kayla now knows she can beat everybody in the 78 kg division so now it is just a matter of having a solid game plan for each opponent in London,” Pedro Jr. said. “She's right where she needs to be to win it all.”
Harrison was on fire from the start, defeating South Korea’s Ji Yeon Yu by ippon with an arm bar. In her second match, Harrison won again by ippon in just 23 seconds against Kyrgyzstan’s Dinara Kakharova. Facing Japan’s Ruika Sato, Harrison picked up two yukos to one to win on penalties. That put Harrison in the semi-finals, defeating France’s Lucie Louette by a yuko again on penalties.
Her final round for the gold, against the 2008 Olympic Champion in this division was a key reason for Kayla to go to this tournament. At this elite level so close to the Olympics, winning is not the only goal. Athletes are looking to fight the competitors they will face across the mat in London next year. For Harisson, mission accomplished, with harai makikomi for ippon.
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SUPER BOWL Invitational Judo Tournament
Date: Sunday, February 5, 2012
Location: HCST Recreation Center
2100 5th Street North Bergen, NJ (10 Minutes from the GW Bridge or Lincoln Tunnel)
Tournament Director: Clyde Worthen (201) 328-4055(cell) Email: email@example.com