"With the luck of the draw," Olympic judo Coach Pual Maruyama says, the United States team could come home from the 1980 Olmpics in Moscow with a couple bronze medals.
For Americans to think about "coming home with a gold medal is dreaming," he added.
Yet, Maruyama is not a pessimist. He blames the U.S. team's current problems on the "lack of a program," but hopes, under his guidance, in "1984 we might see some results."
In the meantime, Japan, led by heavyweight Yasuhiro Yamashita, plans to reaffirm its position as the judo power of the world. The Japanese took three of six gold medals in Montreal in 1976, a disappointing performance by their standards, and plan to do better in Moscow, where eight golds will be offered.
Maruyama thinks the additional weight classes will be an added incentive to other nations, but not the U.S.
"That's one thing I'd like the American public to realize," Maruyama said. "Even though judo is relatively minor in our country, the other nations - particulary the communist nations - look at the prestige of a sport by the number of gold medals offered. You're looking at a heck of a lot more gold medals than basketball."
Few Americans stand out as clear favorites to earn Olymic Medals.
"Any one of the first four places (in a weight division) could be a champion on a given day," said Frank Fullerton, manager of the 1980 Olympic judo team and vice- chairman of the National AAU Judo Committee.
To make the Olympic tam, a performer need only stand out at the trials, which will be held next year at a yet-undecided date and place.
"We have to pick a one-shot team," Fullerton said. "We don't have a national team, which is unfortunate. Once they win the trials, all they have to do (to go to the Olympics) is make weight."
The top four American hopefuls now live in California: Keith Nakasone of San Jose, defending AAU and 1978 Pan American champ at 132 pounds (60 kilograms) and under; Brett Barron of San Mateo, national AAU titlist and 1978 Pan American runner-up at 172 pounds (78 kilograms) and under; Leo White of Monterrey, open and 189-pound-and-under collegiate winner and AAU defending champion at 189 pounds (86 kilograms) and Tommy Martin of Stockton, a former national champion and 1976 Olympian, at 189 pounds.
Maruyama blames the absence of standouts in this country to lack of incentives.
"It would seem to be good because it seems we have a lot of depth to keep everybody on their toes," he said. "Another way of looking at this is that the quality of judo in this country is not what it should be. Maybe our guys don't train as hard as the Russians.
"The rewards are not great enough - I'm not saying everybody should be in it for what they can get - but the rewards are not so that our men train hard. It's not that once you win a gold medal, you've got it made," as in other sports such as track and swimming.
LIKELY U.S. COMPETITORS - Most weight categories are wide open; favorites are Keith Nakasone (60 kilograms - and - under), Brett Barron (78 kilograms - and - under) and Leo White or Tommy Martin (86 kilograms - and - under).
MEDAL FAVORITES - Wide open at this point.
1976 CHAMPIONS - 63 kilograms - and - under: Hector Rodriguez, Cuba; 70 kilograms - and - under: Vladimir Nevzorov, Soviet Union; 80 kilograms - and - under: Isamu Sonoda, Japan; 93 kilograms - and - under: Kazuheri Ninomiya, Soviet Union; Heavy - weight: Sergei Novikov, Soviet Union; Open: Haruki Vemura, Japan.
NEW WEIGHT CLASSIFICATIONS - 60 kilograms - and - under; 65 kilograms - and - under; 71 kilograms - and - under; 78 kilograms - and - under; 86 Kilograms - and - under; 95 kilograms - and - under; heavyweight, and open. CAPTION: Picture, Kenneth Baysmore of Washington has Olympic ambitions. Washington Post Photo