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Women’s -48kg division qualifed for the 2008 Olympic Games!

*Editor’s note: The Pam Am Championships and Zone Cup were held May 9-11 and were the two last qualifiers for the 2008 Olympic Games. Sayaka Matsumoto represented EBJI and the USA at these events and brought back a medal from the Zone Cup in addition to qualifying a USA competitor to go the Olympics in her weight division. Ann Shiraishi and Sayaka will both be competing for a spot on the Olympic Team at the Trials, to be held on June 13-15 in Las Vegas, NV. Congratulations Sayaka!

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Matsumoto Sensei, Asanuma Sensei and I went to the Pan American Championships and Zone Cup in hot and humid Miami, Florida. These two tournaments were the last 2 events that would determine which countries in the Pan American Union would go to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

The Pan American Union is made up of countries in North, South, and Central America, and includes countries such as Cuba, Brazil, Ecuador, Columbia, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Argentina, and Dominican Republic. For each of the women’s weight divisions, the Pan American Union is alloted three countries, which means the US needs to be in the top 3 countries to send someone to the Olympics.

After not qualifying the division in 2004, I was determined to do well in these last 2 tournaments and earn a qualifying spot for our country.

My day started on May 9 when I competed against opponents from Guatemala, Ecuador, Mexico and Argentina. I went 2-2 and ended up taking 5th place. Although I was disappointed that I did not medal, I was happy that this was enough to qualify the division.

On May 11 I competed again, in the Zone Cup qualifier, where I took second to a tough Canadian. Luckily, it was only necessary for me to compete in the Zone, because my division was qualified no matter how I did.

Out of the seven women’s weight categories, only 3 qualified for the Olympic Games. Now that 48 kilos is qualified, I can concentrate on the Olympic Trials, which will be held on June 13-15 in Las Vegas.

-Sayaka Matsumoto

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