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May 21, 2008
Security Officer Bongert to Compete in 2008 USA Olympic Judo Trials

The University of Dubuque will be watching the 2008 USA Olympic Judo Trials with high hopes on June 13-14. Security officer Andrea Bongert will entertain visions of making the 2008 Olympic Team in Judo when the qualifying tournament begins on June 13 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev.

Bongert has been slowly making her mark among the best in America in womens Judo competitions. She will be among 100 athletes who have been ranked in the Top 8 of the individual weight classes. The Judo competition will share the stage with USA Wrestling Olympic Trials and will provide fans of both sports opportunity to watch live on NBC.

A sports injury in 1998, while a freshman in college as a track and field competitor pushed Bongert to the sport of Judo for rehabbing a shoulder injury. She liked the sport so much she left track and field and has never looked back. The object in a judo match is to either throw the opponent to the ground on their back; to pin them to the ground principally on their back; or to force the individual to submit to a choke, strangle or an armlock. Any of these score ippon (a point), immediately winning the match.

Judo meaning "gentle way", is a modern Japanese martial art and combat sport, which originated in Japan in the late nineteenth century. Its most prominent feature is its competitive element, where the object is to either throw one's opponent to the ground, immobilize or otherwise subdue one's opponent with a grappling maneuver, or force an opponent to submit by joint locking the elbow or by applying a choke. Judo includes a variety of rolls, falls, throws, hold downs, chokes, joint-locks, and strikes, the primary focus is on throwing and groundwork. Throws are divided in two groups of techniques, standing techniques and sacrifice techniques.

Judo was added to womens Olympic competition in 1988 and as a medal sport in 1992. Judo has been a Paralympic sport (for the visually impaired) since 1988. Judo is also one of the sports at the Special Olympics.

Bongert in the beginning was trained by local sensei Terry Smith who taught her the basics, but has since become her own trainer and marched on to win the state title in Iowa five times. She turned a few heads when unranked she placed 2nd at All-Womens International Competition held in Michigan. She quickly became ranked and went on to win the USJA Nationals held in Ontario, Calif., in December 2006.

She placed 3rd at the US Open in November of 2007 and has qualified for the Olympic Trials in two weight divisions. She enters the qualifier ranked eighth in the +78 kg and fifth in the womens open weight class. Bongert is choosing to battle only the +78 kg class for a spot on the Olympic Team.

After I took second at the All-Womens International, it made me kind of wonder how good I could be, commented Bongert. Then when I won the USJA Nationals, this is it, the Olympics was a definite potential for me. I just needed to maintain my rank in the Top-8 for the past year.

The road to the Olympics has not been an easy one for Bongert. The full-contact sport takes a toll on the body.

Ive had 18 broken bones since I started in competition, added Bongert. I tend to get injured more than my competitors because I am still learning the sport and I believe its due to many of them began as young children and have many more years of experience.

Not only is the sport a cost to the body, but also to the elite athletes as well. Sponsorship is minimal, entry fees for tournaments, rising cost of hotel and traveling makes it difficult for the athletes to compete at all of the tournaments, so they must pick and choose select competitions and/or recruit sponsors. Bongert has picked up some local sponsors in Snap Fitness and The gym.She also earns income from a massage business at The Looking Glass and at the Balance Healing and Arts Center which keeps her focused while the additional revenue helps support her Judo.

University of Dubuque Strength and Fitness Coordinator Mike Mandott, and student-athletes Andre Taylor and Jose Reinoso have all been training partners with Bongert. Taylor is a sophomore Spartan wrestler who has been competing internationally in Judo since he was four, works with Bongert with her Judo training regimen. Taylor, was a member of the USA Pan Am Team in 2006, is teaching her on grips and showing her to attack what the opponent gives you. Mandott has worked up a strength program in the weight room and Reinoso a football and wrestling student-athlete has been introducing concepts of wrestling which could be used to her benefit in Judo.

The American womens Judo team will have their work cut out once they win the qualifier and journey to the Olympics in China. No American woman has ever placed at the Olympics in the Judo competition since its inception to the medal rounds in 1992.

In just a couple of weeks, Bongert will dress in her traditional wear, a white uniform called Judogi and black belt,step into the ring and prepare to represent Dubuque as a hopeful for the 2008 USA Olympic Team. A native of Oshkosh, Wis., friends and family will be following her progress when she begins competition in a capacity crowd at Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. The event along with the USA Wrestling qualifier will be covered by NBC Sports and also streamed online by USA Judo.

1. Heidi Moore (Englewood, Colo. / Denver Judo)
2. Melinda Swanson (Honolulu, Hawaii / Hawaii Tokai)
3. Brittni Bradford (Tampa, Fla. / El Mambi Judo)
4. Lorey Edwards (Lorain, Ohio / Chu To Bu)
5. Nanoushka St. Pre (Brooklyn, N.Y. / Legrosports Starrett)
6. Toni Geiger (Dumont, N.J. / Tech Judo)
7. Janelle Snider (Latham, N.Y. / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center)
8. Andi Bongert (Dubuque, Iowa / Sioux City Judo Club)