US’ first chances at medals Monday

Americans have their first shot at judo medals Monday.

Marti Malloy will compete in the women’s 57-kilogram division, and coach Jimmy Pedro said she has been in ”awesome” form lately. She has a tough first battle against world No. 2 Telma Monteiro of Portugal.

”I honestly feel Marti is peaking at the right time and is poised to beat Monteiro,” he said. Malloy has lost in her last two matches against Monteiro, but is coming closer to winning, Pedro said.

”It sounds tough, but if Marti can get by that match, I believe she’s going to reach the semifinals of the Olympics and vie for a medal,” he said.

For Nick Delpopolo, it may be a more straightforward path. Delpopolo is fighting in the men’s 73-kilogram division and has a bye into the second round, where he will face Chi Yip Cheung of Hong Kong.

Pedro said he expected Delpopolo to beat Cheung. To reach the quarterfinals, Delpopolo will have a harder task, possibly coming up against Belgian Dirk van Tichelt, seeded eighth.

If Delpopolo wins that match, he could meet world No. 1 Korean Wang Ki-Chun, who won a silver at the Beijing Games in 2008.

Given the upsets in judo so far, American medals are a possibility.

On Sunday, both the men’s and the women’s top seeds were defeated in their first fights, leaving the draw wide open. And Japan had yet to win its first gold in the martial art it invented. The men won a silver Saturday and a bronze Sunday.