Team USA Brings 18 Competing Juniors To The Junior Pan American Championships
Team USA Judo arrived in Calgary with a team of juniors that featured four returning medalists from last year's Pan American Championships. Kicking things off for Team USA would be Harlee Hither -48kg. In 2022, Harlee gained silver medals at both the Cadet and Junior Pan American Championships. Picking up where she left off in 2022, Harlee went 1-1 in the -48kg category. She won her first match against a fellow American teammate, Jayne Loo, and then fell in the finals to a tough Canadian opponent. Harlee would repeat as the silver medalist at -48kg.
Also competing at -48kg for Team USA Jayne Loo. Jayne won in the opening round with ease after throwing for ippon in under 30 seconds. In the semi-finals she would lose to Harlee. Then in the bronze medal match Jayne scored an ippon just before the 3 minute mark to bring home a bronze medal. Next up for Team USA would be Kaycie Tanimoto -52kg. Kaycie showed heart and passion despite not getting the results she hoped for. Kaycie endured a battle in the opening round but managed to score the ippon to move on. She would drop her semi-final match as well as her bronze medal match but she showed that she is no easy defeat in both matches.
Fresh off her silver medal finish the day before at the cadet level, Emily Jaspe -63kg, now competing as a junior looked ready to go. Jaspe was 2-1 on the day as a junior and brought home the bronze medal for Team USA. Shavon Gonzalez -70kg won gold as a cadet the day before and also competed at the junior level. Gonzalez dropped her first match and then returned in the repechage for a bronze medal match. It was a tough match for her but she managed to score the ippon at the 3 minute mark and brought home her second medal of the weekend.
Joshua Yang and Christopher Velazco were up first for the men of Team USA both competing in the -60kg category. Joshua finished with a bronze medal winning three of his four matches on the day, all coming by way of ippon. Velazco faced tough competition all day. He finished 1-2 on the day but was given a chance to fight for the bronze medal. Unfortunately, he would not bring home the bronze and finished 5th at -60kg.
Amin Bakhtiyor -66kg competed tremendously well. He finds his openings to throw with great timing. He won his first three matches and advanced to the finals fighting for gold. Unfortunately, he would be stopped there and he returns back home with a silver medal around his neck for Team USA. Kai Wallace -73kg also returned home with a medal of his own, a bronze, after going 3-1 on the day as well.
Johan Silot -81kg has dominated the domestic competition at -81kg throughout 2023. Johan got off to a hot start winning by ippon in the opening match. He lost to the eventual gold medalist, Jumper Meladze (CAN), in the semi-finals. He was sent to a bronze medal match in the next round, where he would take the bronze medal with him. Daniel Liubimovski -90kg took home a gold medal in the cadet bracket and looked to repeat that result as a competing junior. Daniel won his first two matches in less than two minutes, throwing both of his opponents for ippon. His opponent in the finals, Gustavo Milano (BRA), came ready to fight. The match headed into golden score where Gustavo eventually threw Liubimovski. The American returns home with a silver medal in addition to his cadet gold.
Congratulations to all the competing Team Judo Junior Athletes. We are proud to have each one of you representing the United States. For those of you who medal, continue the hard work and more success will follow. For the junior who did not medal, use this experience as motivation for future events. Once again, congratulations team!