FIVE OLYMPIC VACANCIES AT STAKE AS FIVE CONTINENTAL QUALIFIERS SET FOR KICK-OFF

The five vacancies in the men’s volleyball tournament of the 2020 Olympic Games that are still available are about to be contested at various venues on all five continents over the next few days and the line-up for Tokyo 2020 should be finalized by January 12.
The winners of the five continental qualification tournaments will claim the last five tickets (one per continental confederation) to Tokyo and will join hosts Japan, as well as the teams of Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Poland, Russia and USA who advanced through the intercontinental qualifiers in August, in the quest for the most coveted medals in the sports world.
CEV qualification tournament
European squads will be the first to get into action, as their eight-team qualifier gets underway on Sunday, January 5, at the Max-Schmeling-Halle in Berlin. The participants are split into two round-robin pools to be played over four consecutive days on the way to the January 9 semifinals, matching the pool winners against the pool runners-up, and the big final on January 10 to decide the quota.
Hosts Germany have played at the Olympics twice as East Germany, once as Germany and another two times after the reunification, most recently finishing fifth at London 2012. Their best result is the Munich 1972 silver for GDR. Germany’s toughest opposition in Pool A is likely to be presented by Slovenia, a team that never made it to the Olympics, but claimed silver medals at two of the three most recent European Championships, in 2015 and 2019. Also in that pool are Belgium, looking for their second Olympic appearance, after the eighth place way back in 1968, and the Czech Republic, who have never been to the Olympics as such, but showcase one silver (1964) and one bronze (1968) medals out of their five appearances in the first five Olympic tournaments through 1980 as Czechoslovakia.
Reigning 2019 European champions Serbia, gold medallists at Sydney 2000 and bronze medallists at Atlanta 1996 as Serbia and Montenegro, are aiming at their seventh Olympic participation overall. They and the team of France, who played at four editions of the Games and finished ninth in 2016, seem to be the big favourites to make the semis from Pool B, but they will have to face the strong challenge of Bulgaria, silver medallists at Moscow 1980 and looking for their ninth trip to the Olympics, and the Netherlands, Atlanta 1996 champions and Barcelona 1992 runners-up, attempting to register their seventh appearance at the Games.
AVC qualification tournament
Asian teams will be the next to join the race to Tokyo 2020, as the AVC qualification tournament kicks off in Jiangmen on January 7 in the same format as the one of CEV – eight teams, divided into two round-robin pools leading up to crossed semifinals and a final – to stamp one Olympic visa on January 12.
In Pool A, hosts China, most recently finishing fifth at home at Beijing 2008, are targeting their third Olympic appearance, in the company of reigning 2019 Asian champions Iran, who finished fifth at Rio 2016, their only Olympic participation so far, as well as Kazakhstan and Chinese Taipei, who have never made it to the Games as such.
2019 Asian Championship runners-up Australia, who ranked eighth at home at Sydney 2000 and played at two more editions of the Games afterwards, lead the way in Pool B, with eight-time Olympic participants Korea as their main contender. India and Qatar will also start the Jiangmen tournament in Pool B, hoping to book Olympic tickets for the first time in history. 
CAVB qualification tournament
A single round-robin tournament with five participating teams will produce the single African representative at Tokyo 2020. Egyptian capital Cairo will host the CAVB qualification battles over five consecutive days, from January 7 through 11.
Tournament hosts Egypt represented their continent at the most recent edition of the Games, in Rio, where they placed ninth. It was their best result out of four Olympic appearances. Tunisia, the African nation with most Olympic experience and reigning 2019 continental champion, have a good shot at booking their seventh trip to the Games. The ninth place at Los Angeles 1984 is their best standing so far. In 1992, Algeria crossed the Mediterranean to finish 12th at the Barcelona Olympics. Now they are aiming at their second Olympic appearance. The squads of Ghana and African championship runners-up Cameroon will also take their chances at claiming their first ever Olympic visa.
CSV qualification tournament
With both South American standouts, Brazil and Argentina, having already booked their Tokyo 2020 tickets, this year’s edition of the Olympic Games will mark the first time in history when the continent will be represented by three men’s teams. In a single round-robin qualifier from January 10 through 12 in Santiago, Chile, four teams will compete for the rare honour to accompany the two South American powerhouses to the Olympics.
Venezuela are, in fact, the only other team from the continent that have ever appeared at the Games. They did so in 2008 when they finished ninth in Beijing and will try to do it again in 2020 in Tokyo. None of their three opponents in Santiago – Colombia, Peru and hosts Chile – have ever qualified for the Olympics, so the fans may expect fierce battles at Arena Monticello. 
NORCECA qualification tournament
The North American qualifier is the last of the five to get underway, also as a single round-robin tournament with four teams from January 10 through 12. Vancouver, Canada will host the event with the iconic Pacific Coliseum as the arena of the matches.
Hosts Canada will aim to secure their fifth Olympic appearance. At Rio 2016, the Maple Leafs ranked fifth, while their best result came at Los Angeles 1984, when they finished fourth. Montreal 1976 bronze medallists Cuba, who are after their eighth trip to the Olympics and hoping to do better than the 11th place in the Rio 2016 final standings, are another serious contender for a spot at Tokyo 2020. Mexico, who shared that 11th position with Cuba at their second participation in the Games, and Puerto Rico, who are targeting their first appearance at the Olympics, are the other two squads in the line-up for the NORCECA vacancy.
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Cuban wrestlers lived a victorious 2019

Wrestling medals for Cuba at the Lima Pan American Games and in the World Wrestling Championships in Kazakhstan during the 2019 competitive calendar were highlighted today by the sports publication JIT.

'Cuban wrestling experienced an intense and fruitful season, as a prelude to a 2020 in which we could record the greatest milestone in the history of that sport worldwide,' the publication stressed, before highlighting the achievements of star wrestlers Mijaín López and Ismael Borrero, both Greco-Roman style.

López, in the 130 kilogram division, secured his fifth continental gold medal in the Peruvian capital, after defeating Venezuelan Moisés Pérez 9-0 in the final.

At 37 years of age, the athlete showed that his physical and sports skills have not diminished, despite the passage of time and the emergence of new generations.

As part of his strategy, Lopez was absent from the competition in Nur-Sultán, with the aim of regathering his strength to ensure optimal conditions for the Tokyo 2020 Games.

JIT, official publication of the Cuban Sports Institute, also extolled the figure of Borrero, in the 67 kg category, who took gold in Peru and Kazakhstan.

Likewise, JIT recognized the results of Oscar Pino (130 kg), world silver medallist; Milaymis Marín (76 kg) Junior World Wrestling Champion; and Gabriel Rosillo (97 kg), triple Pan American and World Youth Champion.

Gladiators such as Yowlys Bonne (61 kg), Yurieski Torreblanca (86 kg), Geandry Garzón (74 kg) and Alejandro Valdés (65 kg), in the case of the men; and Lianna Montero (53 kg), Yudaris Sánchez (68 kg), Milaymis Marín (76 kg) and Yusneylis Guzmán (50 kg), in the women's section, also received praise after completing the previous season.

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Cuban Judo: Iván Silva’s 2019

Iván Silva is a very ambitious young man. He is focused, but above all, he is well aware he must continue to improve his performance in the judo’s 90 kg division if he wants to win a medal in Tokyo 2020.

Born in Matanzas on January 8, 1996, and forged after rough combats against Asley González, he is looking now to become an elite judoka after winning the silver medal in the 2018 World Championship.

A propos of his 2019 season, Julio Alderete’s pupil (36 W- 12 L), talked to CubaSí:

“After my gold medal in the Pan American Games Lima 2019, I had just one week to train for the World Championship. My goal was to win a medal, but I could not meet my goal due to some setbacks. Hence, I ended seventh.

Afterwards, I managed to be runner-up in the Grand Slam held in Brazil, my best result in the second stage of my competitive roadmap of the season. The rest of the season, I always lost in the second round.

I personally believe that I was tired, and the training plan was focused on winning that gold medal in Lima. Indeed, there are now strong opponents in my division. For instance, several world champions lost in Qingdao’s (Master) first round,” detailed the already qualified for Tokyo 2020 according to his world ranking (3th- 4.423 points).

Broaden his technical repertoire…

“You must always look for improvements in your combat planning. The workload contributes to personal development. I even train with colleagues of a higher division (100 kg). That is where I am right now. It is not old-fashioned at all, but nonetheless we make the necessary adjustments to broaden my repertoire. This season I have felt more confident as I learned hip, leg, and uchi-mata techniques. Besides, I have learned how to handle my combats better.

In today’s judo, and combat sports in general, you must have an ace up your sleeves. A lot of evaluation of opponents is carried out these days. They watch all my combats on video. Hence, it is paramount to have set some strategies that may help to win a fight in the end.

The 90 kg is a very balanced division. How is Silva dealing with such reality?

“It is something I bear in mind. I can even face a strong opponent in the first round of any tournament who may well be a world medalist. So every international tournament is now a challenge.”

Are you pleased with your 2019 season?

“I am not pleased as I can always perform better. I am actually an ambitious man. A staff of trainers, physicians, colleagues, all of us have worked hard this year. Regarding the emotional aspect, I stay always positive aiming at major goals, but I rather stay focused on winning a medal.”

What are the prospects of judo in general?

“I think the first goal is, for every Cuban judoka, to qualify for the Olympics. Once they are in, the goal is even clearer: to advance in the competition as far as possible to win a medal. The training is being quite hard. In Rio 2016, Cuba’s men judo won no medals and that is the challenge we must target.

The 2020 season should kick off with the traditional European tour as we look to strengthening and rising positions (in the world ranking). Before, I would like to wish all the best to the Cuban people and ask them to trust Cuban judo. We always go out there to do our best,” pointed out the judoka who from 2013 to date, according to www.judoinside.com, boasts a 68.5% winning percentage in all international competitions.

With a strong mind like an ippon, let’s trust he will accomplish his goal.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff

Cuban Weightlifting in 2019: Milestones and Challenges…

Cuban weightlifting ended the 2019 season with some milestones and setbacks, but there are plenty of reasons to feel optimistic with regard to the Olympic Games next year and the upcoming four-year period.

The peak of the season was starred by Cuban women weightlifters who won the first medals ever for the country in a World Championship. Stellar performances such as Ludia Montero’s in Pattaya, Thailand, proved me right.

The young woman won two silver medals (snatch and biathlon) in the 45 kg division, a performance that will be always remembered and certainly ranked as one of the most important sports achievements of the year in Cuba.

Then, we shall praise the silver medal won by Luis Manuel Lauret (109+ kg) at the Pan American Games held in Lima, which became the only Pan American medal earned by Cuba in this sports discipline at Mariscal Caceres Coliseum.

The performance of Cuban weightlifters in Lima was grosso modo disappointing. Several athletes did not meet their expectations and other young competitors showed they are not quite ready for first-level competitions just yet.

This situation, in the words of Jorge Luis Barcelan, National Commissioner and President of Cuban Weightlifting Federation, requires a different approach with regard to the next Olympiad.

Nonetheless, the season showed that there is a new generation of weightlifters coming with a promising future. The number of young weightlifters registered at the ESFAAR Cerro Pelado as well as the results achieved in continental competitions prove it.

Important to highlight the organization of the Pan American Junior Weightlifting Championship held in Havana alongside the Memorial Suarez. Cuba achieved positive results in both events.

Women weightlifters stood out in the Pan American Junior Championship as they topped the ranking in total points. The excellent performance carried out by Ludia Montero in the 49 kg division with an absolute win; the bronze medal earned by Andrea Gonzalez (59 kg, jerk and clean); the silver medals earned by Melisa Aguilera (76 kg); two gold medals and one bronze medal by Talia Hurtado (81 kg), Ana Maria Milian’s (87 kg) two silver medals, and the bronze medal by Eyurkenia Duverger (87+ kg) were some of the top performances of the Cuban delegation.

But men did not trail behind. Arley Calderon (2-0-1) and Otto Oñate (0-1-0) in the 61 kg division; Miguel Castro (0-2-0) and Edisnel Corrales (0-0-1) in 67 kg; Ariolvis Begue (0-2-1) in 81 kg; and Juan Carlos Zaldivar (1-2-0) in 96 kg performed pretty well.

These and other athletes make up the reserve team from where this sports discipline — aiming at the Olympic Games Paris 2024 — will certainly nourish from in the future.

AS of the Pan American event, Calderon (bronze medal, jerk and clean) and Oñate (bronze medal, snatch) got their medals in 61 kg, as well as Juan Columbié (0-1-2) in 109 kg, while Lauret’s results were (1-2-0) in 109+ kg.

The girls, on the other hand, boasted the bronze medal earned by Melisa Aguilera in snatch, 76 kg and Talia Hurtado’s bronze medals in 81 kg. Marina Rodriguez (64 kg) and Ludia Montero (49 kg) ended 5th in their respective divisions.

Finally, it is paramount to highlight the work done to reach the Olympic tickets. Therefore, there are several athletes with real chances to be eligible according to the ranking.

The trainers’ idea is to qualify two athletes of different gender per division for Tokyo 2020, but luckily this number may potentially increase.

This will be the first goal of the upcoming season. In this line, Cuba is getting ready to participate in the Pan American tournament and take advantage of the 2020 Memorial Suarez to be held in March.

There is a lot of weight to lift, but optimism reigns.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff

Authorities call on athletes to elevate Cuba in Tokyo-2020 Games

Roberto Leon Richards, president of the Cuban Olympic Committee, and Osvaldo Vento, president of the National Sports Institute (INDER), congratulated the Cuban athletes, who are focusing their work on the Tokyo-2020 Olympics, for the new year.

On his Twitter account, Richards congratulated the athletes, coaches and the Cuban sports movement, to whom he sent a big hug, convinced that the Olympic event in Tokyo, Japan, will be another scenario of victories for them.

For his part, the INDER president recalled a statement by the historic leader of the Revolution, Fidel Castro, on the occasion of the 61st anniversary of that heoric deed.

'Let's remember Fidel as a permanent motivation for the commitments to come. He insisted that sports encourage the people, entertain the people, excite the people and make the people happy. Congratulations,' Vento twitted.

To date, Cuba has 26 qualified athletes for the Tokyo-2020 Olympic Games in boating (4), cycling (1), artistic gymnastics (2), wrestling (2), modern pentathlon (2), shooting (5) and track and field (10).

According to the Cuban Sports Institute, the number of athletes for the Olympic Games must exceed 100 and Cuban athletes are expected to attend qualifying events from January 5 and May 24, 2020.

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Cuba´s Best Athletes of 2019 Awards presented


This Thursday, the most outstanding athletes of 2019 in Cuba, led by wrestler Ismael Borrero and discus thrower Yaimé Pérez, elected as the best, both world and Pan American champions, received their awards.

The most relevant athletes in collective disciplines, in non-individual events, and the best sports were recognized.

Discus thrower Yaimé Pérez thanked the Cuban Sports Movement.

Other recognitions went to the ten most outstanding figures; the rookie of the year, the youths with the most significant impact; Omara Durand as the most excellent among the disabled, and other categories.

The Anti-Doping Laboratory obtained recognition for 16 years of excellence in its work.

Commander of the Revolution and vice president of the Council of Ministers, Ramiro Valdes, presided the Gala that was held at the Revolutionary Armed Forces Universal Hall.

Also attending were the head of the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education, and Recreation (INDER), Osvaldo Vento Montiller; José Ángel Portal Miranda and Eduardo Rodríguez Dávila, Ministers of Health and Transport respectively, among other high-ranking government and sports officials.

19 Premiación Atletas año 09 FOTO Roberto Morejón 580x386

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Cubans Miss Panam Sports Meetings in Ft. Lauderdale

Despite best efforts by Panam Sports, seven Cuban representatives invited to the inaugural Awards Gala in Fort Lauderdale were unable to attend due to lack of visas.

The group was to be headed by Cuban Olympic Committee president Roberto Leon Richards, who was also to attend two other meetings in Ft. Lauderdale, the Panam Sports Symposium on Best Practices and an extraordinary meeting of the Central American and Caribbean Sports Organization.

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Discus Thrower Yaimé Pérez and Wrestler Ismael Borrero: Cuba’s Best Athletes in 2019

Discus thrower Yaimé Pérez and Greco-Roman wrestler Ismael Borrero were bestowed upon the Cuba’s Best Athletes of the Year Award, according to INDER (Cuba’s National Sports Institute).

It was the second time for Pérez as she had won the award last year. In 2019, she crowned in Doha and the Pan American Games; in addition to winning the Diamond League.

She won in seven out of ten top competitions in which she participated. She got twelve of the top 25 results of the season.

Her first big win of the year took place in Lima, where she got the gold medal with a record performance of 66,58m. Afterwards, she beat Croatian Sandra Perkovic, two-times Olympic and World Champion, in the Diamond League for second season in a row.

In winning the award, as the best female athlete of the nation, Pérez earned more votes than renowned athletes like judoka Idalys Ortiz, runner-up in Tokyo and gold medalist in Lima, and cyclist Arlenis Sierra, champion of Giro La Toscana, in Italy, Cadel Evans (Australia), and Lima.

On the other hand, Borrero earned the award as the best male athlete of the nation after crowning in Nur-Sultan World Wrestling Championship, held in Kazakhstan. There, he won six combats and achieved his second world championship title after Las Vegas 2015.

The Olympic champion in Rio de Janeiro 2016 also won in the Pan American Games held in Lima and extended his winning streak to 29.

The Cuban star earned more votes than boxer Andy Cruz, world champion in Yekaterinburg in Russia and Pan American champion, and long jumper Juan M. Echeverría, bronze medalist in Doha and Pan American champion.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff

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