Judo Action Begins at the Pan Am Games on Saturday
by Nicole Jomantas
(Colorado Springs, CO) – Fourteen U.S. athletes will compete against the best athletes in North and South America at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.
One of the largest sporting events in the world, the Pan Am Games will feature more than 6,000 athletes from 41 countries. Team USA will participate in 43 sports with a delegation of more than 600 athletes.
The judo competition Pan Am Games schedule is as follows:
Oct. 28: Men’s 60 kg, 66 kg, Women’s 48 kg, 52 kg, 57 kg
Oct. 29: Men’s 73 kg, 81 kg, Women’s 63 kg, 70 kg
Oct. 30: Men’s 90 kg, 100 kg, +100 kg, Women’s 78 kg, +78 kg
Oct. 31: Mixed Team
Team USA won four medals at the last Pan American Games in Lima in 2019 and has brought in 115 medals in judo since the first Pan Am Games were held in 1963.
Two-time Olympian Angelica Delgado (Miami, FL / NYAC / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center) is the only returning U.S. athlete with Pan Am Games experience, having won bronze in the 52 kg division at both the 2011 and 2015 Games. However, the squad includes four athletes who have won medals at past Senior Pan American Championships:
- Angelica Delgado (Miami, FL / NYAC / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center / 52 kg), two-time Pan Am Games medalist and eight-time Senior Pan Am Championship medalist
- Maria Laborde (Kenosha, WI / NYAC / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center / 48 kg), three-time Senior Pan Am medalist and two-time Senior World Championship medalist
- Nate Keeve (San Rafael, CA / NYAC / 100 kg), two-time Senior Pan Am medalist
- Mariah Holguin (San Antonio, TX / Universal Judo / 57 kg), 2022 Senior Pan Am bronze medalist
Many of Team USA’s top contenders for the Paris Games will be fighting in Santiago, including all three of the athletes who are currently ranked among the top 20 in their respective weight divisions on the Olympic Ranking List.
Laborde and Delgado are ranked No. 5 and 16 in the 48 kg and 52 kg divisions, respectively, with the top 17 earning direct qualification to the Paris Games. Two-time Junior World medalist Jack Yonezuka (West Long Branch, NJ / NYAC / Cranford JKC) is ranked No. 20 in the 73 kg division.
Team USA’s complete roster is as follows:
Women’s 48 kg
Maria Laborde (Kenosha, WI / NYAC / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center) won two Senior World Championship medals in 2013 and 2014 for her native Cuba, but gave up her Olympic dreams when she came to the United States in 2014. She returned to international competition in 2022 and soon established herself as one of Team USA’s top candidates for the 2024 Games. Laborde won back-to-back bronze medals at the Senior Pan Ams in 2022 and 2023 and became the first U.S. athlete since 2016 to reach the podium at the World Masters, winning silver earlier this year.
Men’s 60 kg
A wrestler for American University, David Terao (Fairfax, VA) made his international debut in judo in 2022 and has since gone on to win five Continental Open medals, including gold at the Varadero Open in April this year. Terao was one of 10 members of the 2023 Pan Am Games Team to also compete at the Senior Pan Am Championships in Calgary in September.
Women’s 52 kg
Two-time Olympian Angelica Delgado (Miami, FL / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center) has become a fixture on Pan Am podiums, winning eight medals at the Pan American Championships and two at the Pan American Games (2011 and 2015). In her bid to qualify for a third straight Games, Delgado won her third career Grand Slam medal in 2022 with a bronze in Budapest.
Women’s 57 kg
Four-time Senior World Team member Mariah Holguin (San Antonio, TX / Universal Judo) won bronze in her Senior Pan American Championship debut in 2022 and narrowly missed the podium at this year’s event with a fifth-place finish. Tasha Cancela (Coral Springs, FL / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center), a seventh-place finisher at the 2022 Junior Worlds, will join Holguin in the field after earning a qualification quota with her gold medal win at the 2021 Junior Pan Am Games.
Men’s 73 kg
Jack Yonezuka (West Long Branch, NJ / NYAC / Cranford JKC) made history in 2022 when he won bronze at the Junior Worlds – becoming the first U.S. man in 30 years to do so. After a fifth-place finish in his Senior Pan Am Championships debut in September, Yonezuka returned to the Junior World podium earlier this month with a silver medal win and a position in the history books as the only U.S. man to hold two medals at the event. The son of 1980 Olympian Nick Yonezuka (West Long Branch, NJ) and grandson of two-time Olympic coach Yoshisada Yonezuka (Cranford, NJ), Yonezuka is looking to the 2024 and 2028 Games as his opportunity to add to his family’s legacy.
Women’s 63 kg
Sara Golden (Crystal Lake, IL / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center) qualified for her first Senior Pan Am Championship Team in 2020 at just 18 years old – the same year in which she won gold at the Junior Pan Ams. The 2022 Maccabi Games Champion and three-time Senior World Team member won two Pan Am Open medals this season, including gold in Cordoba in June.
Men’s 81 kg
A two-time Senior World Team member, Kell Berliner (Schenectady, NY / Jason Morris Judo Center) made his Senior Pan American Championship debut in September and holds six podium finishes at Pan American Open competitions.
Women’s 70 kg
Yasmin Alamin (Woodbridge, VA / Sport Judo) won gold at the 2022 Senior National Championships and made her international debut later that year. A two-time Pan Am Open medalist, Alamin secured her berth on Team USA with a silver medal finish at the Lima Pan Am Open in July.
Men’s 90 kg
Alex Knauf (Yorkville, IL / NYAC / Cohen Brothers) earned his position on Team USA with a gold medal with at the 2021 Junior Pan Am Games. A seventh-place finisher at the 2022 Junior Worlds, Knauf finished fifth at his first Senior Pan Am Championships last month. A bronze medalist at the 2022 Guayaquil Pan Am Open and 2023 World University Games Team member, Geronimo Saucedo (Wylie, TX / Becerra Judo & Jujitsu Club) qualified for the division as well through the Pan Am rankings.
Men’s 100 kg
Nate Keeve (San Rafael, CA / New York Athletic Club) has been a continuous podium presence on the Pan Am circuit, winning medals in each of his last eight Pan Am Open appearances, dating back to 2018. A former Oregon State wrestler who turned his focus to judo after college, Keeve won his second Senior Pan Am Championship bronze medal in September. Keeve follows in the footsteps of his father, two-time Olympian Damon Keeve (San Rafael, CA) who won medals at both the 1987 and 1995 Pan Am Games.
Women’s +78 kg
A 2019 Senior Pan Am Championship Team member and two-time Senior World Team member, Mackenzie Williams (El Lago, TX / Westlake Judo) punched her ticket to Santiago with three straight podium finishes on the Pan Am Open circuit in 2022.
Men’s +100 kg
Philip Horiuchi (West Covina, CA / Los Angeles Tenri Judo Dojo) began competing in major international tournaments for the first time this year and made an impact quickly, earning top-seven finishes in three straight events, including bronze at the Santiago Pan Am Open in June.