World Champ Kayla Harrison takes GOLD at World Cup Miami, Higashi takes BRONZE

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KaylaFrom USA Judo: Home-Turf Tourney a Huge Success for US Athletes

July 2, 2011 – Miami, FL – USA Judo’s Kayla Harrison, a favorite for the Olympics next year in London, captured the gold on home soil today at the International Judo Federation’s World Cup Miami. This victory on her 21st birthday may have given Harrison the points needed to rank her No. 1 in the World.

This was the second day of the World Cup here, with Harrison, 78kg (Team FORCE, Wakefield, Mass.) joined by USAJudo’s Shintaro Higashi, 100kg (also Team FORCE, Wakefield, Mass.) in climbing the podium.

Higashi took a bronze for Team USA and with Harrison they added their honors to the gold medal won yesterday at the World Cup by Marti Malloy, 57kg (USA Judo National Training Site at San Jose State University) and the bronze by Angelica Delgado, 52kg (Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center in Coral Springs, FL).

After the match, Harrison was serenaded by the crowd with “Happy Birthday” led by USA Judo CEO Jose H. Rodriguez. Harrison turned 21 today.

Harrison may have something else to celebrate when the new International Judo Federation (IJF) rankings come out next. The win today may just earn her enough points to put her into the No.1 ranking spot for the first time in her career.

“It is a great feeling, and this has been one of the best days of my life,” Harrison said. “Not only is it my birthday and I won a World Cup, but the win gave me enough (international) ranking points to put me in the No.1 position.”

Against Canada’s Amy Cotton in the gold round, Kayla came out aggressive early and scored a yuko on koshi-garuma. After that she was a little hesitant and didn’t commit to her attacks.  She ended up getting countered to tie the score.  When she needed it, she was able to get aggressive again and scored a waza-ari with osoto gari to win the match.

“That is one of her really good moves,” Harrison said of Cotton’s counter that tied the match. “When someone attacks, she takes them backward.  I knew that going in, but I let my guard down and that made it a really close match.”

It was also a big day for Team USA’s Higashi, who took the bronze. Higashi described his opponent in the bronze round, Jose Boissard of the Dominican Republic, as “a very experienced guy and super explosive.”

“I’ve been training really hard and putting in a lot of work with (USA Judo Olympic Head Coach, Jimmy Pedro), so I wanted to go out there and keep up a good pace,” Higashi said. “That was my game plan. I knew if I kept up the pace eventually he would fold.”

“It feels good, but I can’t be content,” Higashi said. “There are a whole lot more matches and tournaments coming up.  I want to take this momentum and power through the next two tours in South America.”

This was the second time the World Cup Miami tournament was held at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa, a luxurious venue and home to the notoriously challenging Blue Monster golf course, just minutes from downtown Miami.

Commentators for the LIVE webcast today, including former Olympian and USA Judo Director Leo White, joined by IJF Spokesman Sheldon Franco-Rooks, applauded the venue and noted how important it was to bring such stellar international competition home to US judo fighters, giving many up-and-coming players a chance at the best the world has to offer.

For complete results, click HERE.

For yesterday’s coverage, click HERE.

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