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Sara Golden Places Seventh at First Pan Am Games

by Nicole Jomantas

Sara Golden after her round of 16 win in Santiago. (Photo by Nicole Jomantas)

(Santiago, Chile) – Team USA’s Sara Golden (Crystal Lake, IL / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center) earned a seventh-place finish on Sunday in her debut at the Pan American Games.

2023 Pan American Games Results

A member of three past Senior Pan Am Championship Teams, Golden also fought at the 2021 Junior Pan American Games Team where she won bronze.

Her first opponent of the day in her 63 kg division would be Ariela Sanchez (DOM) – the 2021 Junior Pan Am Games Champion.

Sanchez controlled the match early on, throwing Golden for a waza-ari and moving into a pin. A second waza-ari was awarded ed for the pin, but the call was waived off when it was determined that Sanchez had not held the pin for the full 10 seconds.

“I actually didn’t entirely know if it was going to be ippon or not. I kind of thought that I was done and then they waved it off,” Golden said. “In those moments, you don’t really have too much time to think. So, through each exchange, I was just focusing on ok, just keep the balance, keep the pace and just try and find your moment. I trust my judo and I know that I’m going to be able to take advantage of a moment and I just had to find it.”

Golden found her moment on the ground when she took control of Sanchez in the third minute and choked her opponent for ippon (instant win).

In the quarter-finals, Golden fought 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Ketleyn Quadros (BRA) and took the match for four minutes of regulation and two of Golden Score (sudden death overtime) before dropping the match on penalties.

Golden drew 2023 Tashkent Grand Slam silver medalist Prisca Awiti Alcaraz (MEX) in the repechage and fought a close match through regulation and into Golden Score before being thrown for a waza-ari score. Both Quadros and Alcaraz went on to win bronze.

“It’s always kind of a challenge because these are people I look up to in my division, but, when you step on the mat, you’re someone you have to go through. So, although I have a lot of respect for both of them, as people and as athletes, I am still trying to beat them,” Golden said. “The fact that I took both of them to Golden Score and both matches were very tight, it says a lot about my current level and what I’m trying to surpass and the milestones I need to reach in order to get there.”

Although Golden missed the opportunity to fight for a medal, she was proud of how she competed against more experienced opponents.

“I feel that today I fought really well. I think it was an accurate representation of my level currently. I had some really good battles against some really good people,” she said. “It wasn’t, obviously, what I came for, but it is definitely a good gauge of where I am and what I need to work on next.”

Team USA’s Kell Berliner (Schenectady, NY / Jason Morris Judo Center) and Yasmin Alamin (Woodbridge, VA / Sport Judo) each competed for the first time at the Pan Am Games as well, but were each eliminated in the opening round.

A member of the 2023 Senior Pan Am Championship Team, Berliner fought 2022 Junior Pan Am bronze medalist David Popovici (CAN) in the 81 kg round of 16. Popovici scored first, throwing Berliner for a waza-ari in the second minute. The match went to the ground for most of the final minute. When the athletes stood up again, Berliner attached quickly, but was thrown by the eventual bronze medalist for a second waza-ari with 12 seconds on the clock.

Fighting on her first National Team, Alamin drew 2022 Junior Pan Am Champion Luana Oliveira (BRA) in the round of 16 in her 70 kg division. The two fought into the third minute before the Brazilian threw Alamin for a waza-ari and pinned her for ippon.

Top eight and U.S. results are as follows:

Men’s 73 kg
1. Gabriel Falcao (BRA)
2. Daniel Cargnin (BRA)
3. Antoine Bouchard (CAN)
3. Gilberto Cardoso (MEX)
5. Antonio Tornal (DOM)
5. Andres Sandoval (COL)
7. Juan Pablo Vega (CHI)
7. Magdiel Estrada (CUB)

Women’s 63 kg
1. Maylin Del Toro Carvajal (CUB)
2. Isabelle Harris (CAN)
3. Ketleyn Quadros (BRA)
3. Prisca Awiti Alcaraz (MEX)
5. Agustina De Lucia (ARG)
5. Cindy Paola Mera (COL)
7. Sara Golden (Crystal Lake, IL / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center)
7. Constanza Perez (CHI)

Men’s 81 kg
1. Guilherme Schmidt (BRA)
2. Jorge Perez (CHI)
3. David Popovici (CAN)
3. Medickson Del Orbe Cortorreal (DOM)
5. Alain Mikael Aprahamian Bakerdjian (URU)
5. Maikel Mc Kenzie Londres (CUB)
7. Tomas Ezequiel Morales Martinatto (ARG)
7. Samuel Ayala Rodriguez (MEX)

Also Competed: Kell Berliner (Schenectady, NY / Jason Morris Judo Center), 0-1

Women’s 70 kg
1. Idelannis Gomez Feria (CUB)
2. Maria Perez (PUR)
3. Elvismar Rodriguez (VEN)
3. Celinda Corozo (ECU)
5. Luana Carvalho (BRA)
5. Alexia Castilhos (BRA)
7. Victoria Delvecchio (ARG)
7. Luisa Bonilla (COL)

Also Competed: Yasmin Alamin (Woodbridge, VA / Sport Judo), 0-1