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Over 600 competitors from as far away as Armenia, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Europe, Latin America, and South America gathered at the Broward County Convention Center in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Aug. 1-2 for the Junior U.S. Open Judo Championship.
During the opening ceremonies, athletes and coaches paused for a moment of silence for the eight Iranian National Junior Judo Team members and their three coaches who were killed July 15 when their plane went down en route to a training camp in north-west Iran, killing all 168 passengers on board. The loss of an entire junior national team for any country and any sport is devastating.
Prior to the international event, Owen County Judo Team players Robert Beverly, David Gray, James Thompson, and John Thompson attended the international training camp held at the Embassy Suites in Ft. Lauderdale to help prepare for the toughest competition they’ve experienced over the last 11 years.
For John Thompson, practicing with Yasier Alvarez of Miami/Cuba, who placed second in the Junior U.S. Open and spoke little to no English, it was not a problem to communicate on an athletic level. Because judo is conducted in Japanese around the world, and because both players had 10 or more years of experience, practicing and learning various techniques from one another, Olympians, former Olympians, and top coaches in the United States was easy.
In the male juvenile B +90kg division, Robert Beverly placed third, losing to Jimmy Barnes of Oklahoma and Pavel Gorelov of New York. Jimmy Barnes is currently ranked No. 1 in the United States, and Pavel Gorelov is No. 3. By placing third in the Junior U.S. Open, Beverly earned four points toward national ranking. This places Beverly on the national roster at fifth, along with Elias Urena and Hunter Caraway, who also have four points.