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Next stop: London

Delpopolo, Vashkulat qualify for United States Olympic judo team

Jason Morris Judo Center team members Nick Delpopolo, left, and Kyle Vashkulat will be competing for the United States at next month’s Olympics in London.

Jason Morris Judo Center team members Nick Delpopolo, left, and Kyle Vashkulat will be competing for the United States at next month’s Olympics in London. Photo by Rob Jonas.

— “They booked it before I knew if I was going,” said Vashkulat. “They said, ‘Look, we’re going whether you’re there or not.’”

Delpopolo and Vash-kulat are ranked among the top 22 judoka interna-tionally in their weight classes, which is the qualifying standard for the Olympics.

“I think it’s incredible, and the fact that they’re both Burnt Hills (High School) graduates … how about that?” said Morris.

At age 21, Vashkulat is the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team and the youngest competitor in the 100kg division.

“Obviously being the youngest guy in the division, I have a dis-advantage because the other guys are older and have more experience,” said Vashkulat. “But, I feel like I can compete against them.”

“Kyle has had a couple of impressive wins internationally, so he could surprise some people,” said Morris.

Delpopolo won’t be taking anybody in his weight class by surprise. The 23-year-old has competed against all of the other judoka that will be representing their countries in London.

“The thing about the Olympics is each country gets to send only one guy, so I’m not going up against four guys from France or four guys from China,” said Delpopolo. “I have to come up with a strategy for everybody there, but with only 22 guys in the division, it can be done.”

“The Olympics is a different type of compe-tition (than other judo tournaments),” said Morris. “If you can get hot in one or two rounds, you can wind up in the medal round.”

While in London, Vashkulat and Delpopolo will be taking Morris’ advice and taking in as much of the Olympic experience as they can. Both said they will march in the opening and closing ceremonies, and they plan on meeting as many athletes as possible during the Games.

“The one thing Jason told me after I qualified is experience everything,” said Vashkulat. “There’s going to be so many top level athletes there in all different sports.”

Vashkulat and Delpo-polo will have each other to hang out with, too. Delpopolo said they plan on rooming together at the Olympic Village during the Games.

“We used to be room-mates at Jason’s house (while attending BH-BL), and we room together on road trips,” said Delpopolo. “It’s great that we get to experience this together.”

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