Team USA Wins Silver in Battle with France at New York Open

by Alessandro Hamada

The 2023 New York Open Judo Championships held at the New York Athletic Club on March 25 showcased 22 Olympians and 10 Olympic medalists, along with MMA and BJJ professionals from all over the world – an unmatched display of talent and passion for judo with teams from France, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Poland and USA competing for this year’s championship.

One standout was Maria Laborde (Kenosha, WI / NYAC / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center) of Team USA in the 48 kg category. Laborde won three matches by ippon (instant win) and drew in her fourth match. Another USA standout, Jack Yonezuka (West Long Branch, NJ / NYAC / Cranford Judo & Karate Center), won his two matches by ippon in the 73 kg category.

Dominic Rodriguez (Lehigh Acres, FL / NYAC / Ki-Itsu-Sai National Training Center), also in the 73 kg category, won one match by ippon and drew in another. Noran Elmahroukey (New Providence, NJ / NYAC), in the 57 kg category, split her matches with one win and one loss. And Alex Knauf (Vernon Hills, IL / NYAC / Cohen Brothers Judo), in the 90 kg category, thrilled us with his riveting performance – a win over Guy Gurevitch (ISR), securing Team USA’s place in the finals.

In the finals, the United States faced off against Team France in a close battle for championship. The U.S. team won the first two matches by ippon, and lost the next four by ippon, leaving Team France as the champions of the tournament.

Another exciting match between Team France and Team Germany ended with a 3:2 (subscore 24:20) win for France. The last fight of this spectacular match-up was incredibly close.

The event was attended by a host of judo stars and enthusiasts. Everyone was thrilled at the high caliber talent of the teams and the riveting pace of the match-ups.

Jimmy Pedro – World Champion & 2x Olympic bronze medalist said: "Crazy how matchups make all the difference."

Travis Stevens – 2016 Olympic Silver medalist added: "The teams were evenly matched. It made the event really exciting."

Bobby Berland – 1984 Olympic Silver medalist commented: “I was very impressed with the NYAC and their ability to host such a high caliber international event while simultaneously engaging the USA judo Olympic Alumni as well as recognizing the international Olympic alumni and present Olympians on the Mat at the same time. This moment embodied the Olympic spirit and the spirit of judo “Mutual Benefit and Welfare” I was proud to attend the NY Open event and very proud of our Team USA winning the silver medal. Truly a great experience.”

Kevin Earls - NYAC Judo Chairman added: “This is also every year the largest gathering of judo Olympians and medalist in the U.S. Seven of the eight Olympic medals won by the U.S. since 1992 were won by NYAC members. The event has become a meeting place for judo Olympians. These stars get together and share stories and witness the best judo on display in the USA. No other event in the USA can match this.”

Alessandro Hamada – NY Open Judo Co-Tournament Director: “Every year this event gets bigger and better. Although this is a judo event, the goal has always been to unite everyone who has a passion for combat sports. It is wonderful to see BJJ and MMA stars like Renzo Gracie and Kayla Harrison having a drink and hanging out with Olympian judo stars like Jimmy Pedro, Travis Stevens and many others. I want to congratulate Team France for winning the championship and Team USA for the outstanding performance and securing the silver for us! And also, all the other teams who participated in this highly competitive tournament!”

John Walla – NY Open Judo Co-Tournament Director and Chairman: “I want to thank the New York Athletic Club as a partner in hosting the NY Open. Our gratitude to the international teams, coaches and sponsors who are the life blood of the competition. Most importantly, to the NYAC Judo Club and many outside judoka who bring their shared passion of the sport of judo makes hosting the NY Open gratifying. Congratulations to Team USA’s Coaches, Marti Malloy and Colton Brown, who led Team USA to silver this year. The NYAC Judo Club is proud to host an elite level event on home soil to watch USA’s best prospects for the Olympics. We welcome the judo community to join us at the next NY Open.”

Overall, the 2023 New York Open Judo Championships was a display of incredible talent, dedication, and sportsmanship. The close matchups and exciting battles made for an unforgettable tournament that will be remembered by all who attended. We are all looking forward to the next event.