By James Crook

Kayla Harrison Miami school coachingJune 13 - USA Judo teamed up with the International Judo Federation (IJF) to provide training clinics for locals schools prior to the Miami Judo Grand Prix, with team stars such as women's -78 kilogram Olympic champion Kayla Harrison helping youngsters brush up on their skills.

Four sessions were held prior to the event at the Doral Legends Ballroom this weekend, and Harrison was joined by team-mates Travis Stevens, Angelica Delgado, Myles Porter, Marti Malloy and Ernest Ojito, who will be searching for gold in Florida.

More than 500 children attended the sessions, which were conducted to ensure a lasting legacy from this, the first IJF Miami Grand Prix.

Ray Valdes, 14, said: "I really enjoyed being able to take part in a demonstration and it was a great experience.

"I look up to the USA internationals here today and I'm really looking forward to watching the Grand Prix this weekend."

Sensei Delcides Diaz said: "It's great that all the children can be in front of champions and it's something the children will always remember."

Judo school coaching MiamiLocal schoolchildren were given the chance to learn from top USA judokas prior to the IJF Miami Grand Prix this weekend

Participants were given tips and advice from Harrison and her team-mates, and were even given the opportunity to throw the Olympic champion, who defeated Britain's Gemma Gibbons to take gold in London last year.

Children then took part in question and answer sessions with their judo heroes before being able to pose with them for photographs.

"I had a blast," said USA Judo poster girl Harrison, who is currently out with a knee injury.

"I really enjoy working with children.

"Their enthusiasm is contagious and I think we may have seen some future Olympic champions out there over the past two days."

Paralympic silver medallist Myles Porter, who will make history as he becomes the first visually impaired judoka to compete at a Judo Grand Prix on Sunday (June 16), said: "It was a lot of fun to be involved in these sessions.

"In the US, I'm a Paralympic ambassador for the US team so I'm always speaking to children.

Marti Malloy judo miami signing sessionUS Judokas Marti Malloy (left) and Kayla Harrison (right) sign autographs for young fans at one of their coaching sessions

"Being able to spread the word of judo with USA Judo and the IJF as a visually impaired judoka who competes in fully sighted competitions is something which really intrigued the children and they'll take away how the sport focuses on inclusion.

"It's great to be competing this weekend, it'll be even better if I can place.

"I want to be known as someone who wins matches at this level."

USA Judo chief executive Jose Humberto Rodriguez said: "Everybody has been very pleased with the sessions, a couple of people locally have told me it was fantastic and they raved about the athletes.

"It's a great concept and programme, it's wonderful to expose athletes of that level to the community here.

"The growth of the sport in Miami has to be from the bottom up and from the top down, that is the only way you grow.

"It's crucial to get the athletes out into the community so that they can become local heroes besides international heroes."

The IJF Miami Judo Grand Prix takes place over this Saturday and Sunday (May 15 and 16).

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