Kayla Harrison takes SILVER At Grand Slam Tokyo


From USA Judo – 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’s Silver 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 – go to the U.S. ROSTER.

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.”

Go to complete results and brackets at IPPON.ORG.

— Story by Ernest Pund

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