Continuing the achievements of yesteryear

Women’s judo is one of the most successful disciplines in the history of Cuban sports. From Estela Rodríguez, Driulis González, Amarilys Savón, Sibelis Veranes, Legna Verdecia, Daima Beltrán to Idalys Ortiz, judo has produced a healthy supply of stellar athletes, who have elevated the country’s name in competitions across the world.

Today, a young team is looking to continue the achievements of yesteryear and make its own mark on the sport.

The recently concluded Judo World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, marked the first stop on the road toward the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Although the bronze medal won by Kaliema Antomarchi from Santiago de Cuba in the 78 kilograms division fell short of expectations, it does signify hope for the future of the sport.

Granma International visited the Cerro Pelado National Training Center, where we spoke with Félix Portuondo, technical coach of Cuba’s national judo team, about the latest World Championships and upcoming challenges.

“A greater economic incentive than in past competitions meant that this was a World Championship attended by the top figures in almost all divisions.”

“As well as modest, Cuba’s performance in the Women’s Judo Competition in Budapest can be considered positive. Kaliema took home her first world championship medal, a great result for her.

She faced the best judokas in her division, bar double Olympic champion Kayla Harrison from the United States. Her group included Mami Umeki and Ruika Sato from Japan; and Hungary’s Abigel Erdelyi-Joo, ranked sixth in the world. Kaliema faced a tough line-up with two fights going into the Golden Score period.

“The bronze medal fight against Sato was one of the most important of her career. Before, Antomarchi never would have been able to score even a shido against Ruika but, in the moment of truth, beat her by waza-ari.”

How did the rest of the athletes perform?

At just 18 years of age, Melissa Hurtado (48kg), defeated local competitor Eva Csernoviczki - London 2012 bronze medalist - in her opening fight.

They had already faced each other in the lead up to the Budapest championships, in a fight Csernoviczki won. Despite this, the experience served as an opportunity to analyze her and draw-up a strategy which proved to be successful in the end.

However, she lost all focus during her second bout against Melanie Clement of France. We thought that Clement would fight to the right, but she switched her positioning completely. Melissa had to change her strategy on the mat and lost concentration, she didn’t even listen to our instruction and was given a Hansoku make and disqualified.

Maylin del Toro (63kg), an athlete who arrived to the European city in the best form we’d ever seen her in, thanks to her hard work and strong self-confidence, also had problems focusing. I thought she would be the team’s other medal winner. However, she was unable to show this level in her first fight against Junxia Yang of China, losing by ippon.

Anailys Dorvigny was our representative in the 57kg, although we also have another experienced athlete in this division, Aliuska Ojeda.

Anailys is a brave judoka who gives it her all during training and competitions, but has a lot of technical deficiencies which are costly when competing at the highest level. She didn’t make it past the second fight after losing to Chen-Ling  Lien from Taipei. Ojeda and Dorvigny are both athletes with great drive and determination, but who just fall short.

Lastly, we also brought along an inexperienced athlete in the 78+ kg division, 20-year old, Eliannis Aguilar. Her nerves and desire to win got the better of her. She was too impulsive and didn’t follow the strategy we had devised for her.

During her opening fight she overused the shoulder technique which was supposed to be a surprise element. In order to throw her opponent Gulzhan Issanova of Kazakhstan and shorter than Aguilar, she needed to be taken by surprise. She didn’t follow the plan and lost by three shiods.

So, the psychological aspect and concentration were the main problem?

Our athletes need more opportunities to compete at a high level in order to gain confidence. There need to be more competitions and its up to us coaches to instill confidence in our judokas.

Although I’ve only been leading this team for months, there is a strong drive and good rapport between the girls and the technical team.

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Ronaldo Veitia and his "Journey to the Seed" (Photos)

Like Marcial, the leading character of “Viaje a la Semilla” (Journey to the Seed), by Alejo Carpentier, Hilarión Ronaldo Vetía Valdivié, nearly aged 70 (Oct. 21, 1947), takes over the double role of main figure and author of what was and remains as his life, judo.

Fortunately to many, especially children, the story does not begin from his death now, quite the opposite, because he increasingly lives to the rhythm of this martial art, and his fans, relatives and friends wish him long life in and out of tatami mats, and he knows so and commits himself.

The true thing is that “The Professor” returns to his home town, Santa María del Rosario (he still lives there), in El Cotorro, where he left and did not stop through a lot of dedication, sacrifice and example until reaching “Cerro Pelado” High Performance Training Center, to become the head coach of the national women’s judo team, which he directed for 30 years and completed 50 years of work.

He exhibits 25 Olympic medals, including 6 golds, and 57 world medals, with 16 golds, as well as many others won by his disciples, the well-known Marianas of General Veitia, at Pan American and Central American Games. He does not forget them not even for a minute and at present takes over El Proyecto Social Comunitario “Primavera” (Social Community Project “Spring”), with children from that Havanan municipality, among them, his granddaughter Lorena de la Caridad Pérez Veitía.

alt The Professor does not miss the opportunity to offer direct instructions.

The Master in Social Sciences, black belt and 8th dan welcomes the journalist and the photographer from the Cuban News Agency (ACN) with great pride and desire to work for the new generations in order to exchange on his “Journey to the Seed”.

-Was it a debt you had with judo, with children?

I always owe children, because they are the ones who taught me the most in my professional career. If I hadn’t worked with boys and girls I wouldn’t have had such a beautiful vision of life and the pedagogy which I was working with for many years at “Mártires de Barbados” School of Sports Initiation (EIDE).

-Are you still learning after so many successes at top level and so many years of work?

You always learn every day of life, and more so when you teach.

-What do you enjoy most from the project and what is the most difficult?

What I enjoy most is the joy that we can transmit to those kids and young people who develop and learn not only in terms of sports, but also in their educational formation, so they can be better citizens.

-Health, quality of life, first step towards high performance?

All that. The first step towards High Performance is to detect the great child promises and look for them, because the wood that is used to make a violin sounds from the forest, and our pedagogical work should bring out beautiful music for talents.

-Do you still dream of your Marianas or have the little ones occupied their places?

Every love has its space in the heart. If you have several children and love them all, each with his/her characteristics, you love them equally. Prior to the Marianas I had children and young people, and they have loved me very much and I have loved them too. I’ve never forgotten anyone, nor have they forgotten me.

-What do the Marianas say about the project, do they help you?

My Marianas have permeated my life, and they know that invigorates me. They wish me the best with their good backbone, because good disciples never forget you, the indebted ones, those who were able to taking over my daring dreams, were able to ennoble them for the good of our Homeland, the people and their followers, who admire them a lot and not only love them, but praise them for their courage and duality of having made them cry for joy from their results in and out tatami mats.    

alt
Like every day, the biginning with the important training session.   

Some have come and made the kids I direct very happy when seeing their medals. They are delighted for being able to meet and share with Olympic and world champions. Undoubtedly, that provides the Project and that youth with an extraordinary fresh air.

-Did it come to remain?

Of course, it existed since I was directing the national women’s team, when I used to participate voluntarily in this “Antonio Maceo” judo hall. Now, I have more time and fully involved along with my son René, who is a professor too.

The Project has a very important activity, because it is in a passing through community and helps withdraw the children from idle activities together with our prophylactic work aiding parents and people of good faith. We take into account that well-directed sport is an antidote to overcome vice.

I feel satisfied because we have many parents and grandparents who are doing an extraordinary job to achieve the main aim: the education of those who have come to us to know this sport, which is a martial art and conveys a lot of discipline.

I have a phrase that reads: "You cannot do a good act without having an excellent company" and those are our parents and grandparents, engaged with me in this dream, which we will make come true, because it came to remain. Good luck!

Executive, grandmother and judokas give their opinions…

Carlos enrique álvarez garcía, executive secretary of the project and grandfather: highlights the joy in the rescued judo room, explaining that the facility was practically abandoned when they decided to take over the project, which brings together children - currently around 50 - from 5-16 years in five categories, joined by juniors too.

They are very enthusiastic; comply with the discipline required and the regulation, signed by all parents, grandparents, in short, by all the relatives of the children.

But the most important thing about this Project or dream - he highlighted - is that the community has found and loves everything we do, with the efforts of families and students.

Maria Luisa Bernal, better known as the Super Grandmother because, as I was told and checked, she is in everything, he says: "My job is to help in everything they need, in whatever I can. It is a dream that is already becoming a reality, very beautiful, because the children learn, discipline themselves, have the possibility to make their dreams come true, and this is very close to me, because my 12-year-old granddaughter and sixth grader is one from them".

altNo one wanted to miss the collective photo.

Idalis Torres Cutiño (8 years old), third grader: "What I like the most is that it helps us all to be good, with the help of the teachers, guided by Vetía. I hope to be an Olympic champion. To participate in the project you have to be a good student, you have to carry both things together and well, study and sports, that's good. I learned very quickly the poetry that I offered to those present on Fidel, but with much love, because Fidel was very good and loved children a lot, a true guide".

Yasmani Enrique Veitisolo Sosa (17 years old), student and worker: "I joined the project because I am a judo lover, and in it I have the possibility to make my dream of being a good judoka come true. I would like to be an Olympic champion, get a good result and be useful to society. There is a very good atmosphere, we are a great family. I studied tenth grade at “Roberto Labrada” pre-university school and work in a private “guarapera” (sugarcane juicing business). Now I will enter the Faculty in August".

For the time being, Veitía is readying to make his new dream come true from Santa Maria del Rosario, where one again he sowed the seed that led him to glory in high performance, with the certainty that very soon this will yield the fruits he expects from his new little disciples, and convinced they will be great on and off the mat, like his Marianas.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff

Cancun Grand Prix 2017, Mexico PREVIEW

The first edition of the Cancun Grand Prix is the most vital stop on the IJF World Judo Tour thus far in 2017 as it is the penultimate Grand Prix before August’s 2017 Suzuki World Judo Championships in Budapest, Hungary. 

Mexico, which successfully hosted the World Masters event in Guadalajara last year, hosts its first ever Grand Prix in the ultimate tourist destination from Friday 16 – Sunday 18 Junew which is a gateway to Worlds selection and judo joy on the elite stage.

As the IJF World Judo Tour heats up on the road to Budapest, the sandy beaches, sparkling blue ocean and balmy temperatures of the Cancun in the South East of Mexico, are the picturesque backdrop for the three-day Grand Prix which has attracted Olympic and world medallists.

 

Olympic and world medallists path to Budapest runs via Cancun

Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist Odette GIUFFRIDA (ITA) is the one and only representative for her country while double Olympic bronze medallist Mayra AGUIAR (BRA) makes a timely return to action. World bronze medallist Victor PENALBER (BRA), heavyweight world number two David MOURA and London 2012 Olympic silver medallist UNGVARI Miklos (HUN) are also among the stars present in Cancun.

Mr. Armen BAGDASAROV, IJF Sports Director, revealed at the draw that 188 judoka would compete at #JudoCancun2017 from 36 nations (111 men and 77 women).

IJF President hails Mixed Team Event success for Tokyo 2020

 

 

From L-R: Mr. Juan CARLOS BARCOS, IJF Head Referee Director, Mr. Antonio Castro SOTO DEL VALLE, IJF Ambassador, Mr. Marius VIZER, IJF President, Mr. Armen BAGDASAROV, IJF Sports Director 

Mr. Marius VIZER, IJF President, said: “Dear Manuel, dear colleagues, friends, ladies and gentlemen, it is a real pleasure to come for the first time in Cancun for a Grand Prix, I want to thank the government from Cancun, the Ministry of Sport, the Mexican Judo Federation and everyone here supporting the Grand Prix.

“It is a great pleasure and an honour to announce that judo’s mixed team event will be in Tokyo 2020 Olympics and after as well in next Olympics.

“I want to thank you for your efforts and dedication, I congratulate all coaches, athletes, the IJF team and Executive Committee and on behalf of the IJF I want to wish you a successful tournament. It is very good for Pan American judo to organise a Grand Prix in this region and I wish you all a lot of luck."

IJF Ambassador Mr. Antonio Castro SOTO DEL VALLE (above) was among the honoured guests in attendance at the draw on Thursday.

“Thank you for your invite, I am very happy to stay here, we are sure this event will be a success with lots of support from the IJF and judoka from all regions," he said. "I thank you for coming and we hope you enjoy this Grand Prix, hopefully it will be the first of many Grand Prix here in Cancun.”

From L-R: Mr. Manuel LARRANAGA, Pan American Confederation and Mexican Judo Federation President, Mr. Jesus Antonio LOPEZ PINZON, President of the Committee of Sport for Quintana Roo (COJUDEQ), Mr. Jose HUMBERTO Rodriguez, Pan American Confederation Director  

Mr. Jesus Antonio LOPEZ PINZON, President of the Committee of Sport for Quintana Roo (COJUDEQ), said: “Good morning all, we would like to thank the IJF and Mr. Marius VIZER as it is very important for our country and our city of Cancun to host this really important event. We want to thank the Mexican Judo Federation and want to say a message to all cities and countries around the world that is a really good place. Thank you all for coming here and thank you for making us the hosts.”

Mr. Manuel LARRANAGA, Pan American Confederation and Mexican Judo Federation President, said: “Good morning everyone, on behalf of Mexican Judo Federation I would like to welcome you all here to Cancun. We would like to thank Mr. Marius VIZER for all of his support towards our country. We would also like to thank the governor of the city for letting us be the host city of this event.

“We would also like to thank Mr. PINZON for giving us all the facilities and tools to be the host city of this event. Thank you to our sponsors and the official hotels for supporting us. Welcome all to Cancun, this city of Paradise, and finally we thank Mr. VIZER once again for supporting us to stage this Grand Prix.”

From L-R: IJF Hall of Famer Driulis González MORALES, triple world champion and four-time Olympic medallist, who is now a Cuban national team coach, alongside former teammate and three-time Olympic bronze medallist Amarilis SAVON, who was recently appointed as coach of Bahamas 

While the draw was underway and throughout Thursday, the IJF staged an Instagram Takeover with London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist and former world silver medallist Marti MALLOY (USA) who competes on Friday.

Click here to see the IJF Instagram Takeover by Marti MALLOY (USA)

Before the action in Mexico begins on Friday, the IJF President Mr. Marius VIZER, will host his latest Twitter Question and Answer session from 9am local time (3pm UK) live from Cancun. The IJF President will be ready to answer questions from all media outlets, judoka, fans, coaches and all corners of the world.

Any subject is open for discussion and questions can already be posted in advance using the hashtag #AskVizer 

 


 

Use #JudoCancun2017 to join in with the social media discussion 


PREVIEW
Women

-48kg

London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist CSERNOVICZKI Eva (HUN) won her only Worlds medal to date back in 2011 in Paris. The 30-year-old – a two-time European champion and three-time Grand Prix winner – has her best chance of Worlds success this summer as judo’s annual marquee event arrives in Budapest, Hungary for the first time. CSERNOVICZKI starts as the top seed in Cancun and a win would be an ideal platform to launch her title bid in August. Pan American Championships silver medallist Edna CARRILLO (MEX) is one of her country’s most talented judoka and could win her first ever IJF medal with the home field advantage while former Grand Slam silver medallist Gabriela CHIBANA (BRA) will be among the leading contenders.

-52kg
Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist Odette GIUFFRIDA (ITA) will compete on the IJF World Judo Tour this weekend for the first time since losing out to Majlinda KELMENDI (KOS) for the -52kg gold medal in Brazil. The 22-year-old, who turned down a spot on Italy’s Dancing With Stars TV series to compete at the European Championships, finished fifth at the continental championships and will start as the favourite in Mexico as she looks to move one step closer to winning her first Worlds medal. Abu Dhabi Grand Slam silver medallist Angelica DELGADO (USA) will be the number one seed but will have her work cut out to turn that into first place with London 2012 Olympic champion Sarah MENEZES (BRA) – a long-time -48kg standout – now stepping up her pursuit of top honours at -52kg.

-57kg

Ekaterinburg Grand Slam winner Miryam ROPER (PAN) wrote her name into the history books as she made sure that Panama’s first ever IJF World Judo Tour medal was gold with a stunning display last time out in Russia. ROPER, 34, started over in April with zero world ranking points when she wore a Panama judogi for the first time and finished fifth at the Pan American Championships and is already up to 12th in the world. The former world bronze medallist now has that goal for her father’s country and arrives in Cancun as the number one seed. Long-time rival Marti MALLOY (USA) – who beat ROPER for bronze at the continental championships – last graced an IJF podium in Budapest last year with bronze at Hungary’s Grand Prix and could send the American flag to the rafters with victory in Mexico. 

-63kg

Baku Grand Slam silver medallist Andreja LESKI (SLO) is a new judoka to follow at -63kg and the 20-year-old could break into the world’s top 10 with a strong outing in Mexico. Double Pan American Championships bronze medallist Hannah MARTIN (USA) has hit the medal trail in 2017 while Brazil continue to stick by their veterans such as Ketleyn QUADROS (BRA) who will pose a considerable medal threat on day two. 

-70kg

Venezuela’s first world number one Elvismar RODRIGUEZ (IJF) is the number one seed at an IJF World Judo Tour for the first time this weekend. The 20-year-old has progressed far quicker than anyone expected with a flurry of Grand Slam and Grand Prix medals over the last year to already became her country’s most successful judoka in the modern era of the IJF circuit. Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Sally CONWAY (GBR) took silver on her post-Olympic return to competition at the Bucharest European Open two weeks ago and will certainly be in the medal shake-up in Mexico. Former world number one Kelita ZUPANCIC (CAN) took silver at the Paris Grand Slam in February and has won four medals on the trot this year going into the first Cancun Grand Prix.

-78kg

Double Olympic bronze medallist Mayra AGUIAR (BRA) makes her eagerly-awaited return to action on Sunday and will hope for a winning return at the penultimate Grand Prix before the Worlds. Former world champion AGUIAR, 25, won bronze in Brazil at the Olympics last time out and has slipped down the rankings due to her inactivity to 19th place in the world. Since her nemesis Kayla HARRISON (USA) has retired, AGUIAR is expected to rule the category for years to come and will get her Worlds preparations back on track with gold in Cancun. Double European bronze medallist Natalie POWELL (GBR) is the top seed in the -78kg category. The world number six took silver at the Ekaterinburg Grand Slam in May and should prove to be the toughest challenge for AGUIAR. Pan American Championships silver medallist Kaliema ANTOMARCHI (CUB) could make a medal push and is at her best when competing in the Americas.

+78kg
The +78kg category looks wide open with Brazil, USA, Mexico, Croatia, Great Britain and Slovenia all targeting top spot. Pan American Championships bronze medallist Nina CUTRO-KELLY (USA) is the number one seed after a strong run in Pan American events while all eyes will be on Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Anamari VELENSEK (SLO) who makes her +78kg debut on her first competition since the Olympics. Lima Pan American Open winner Rochele NUNES (BRA) could add to her IJF World Judo Tour medal count on the final day in Mexico as one of the most experienced judoka in the category.

  • Published in Sports

Judokas from 25 Countries in Pan American in Havana

Havana, Apr 13 (Prensa Latina) The Pan American Championship of Judo will be held in Havana from April 28 to 30, with the participation of 196 judokas from 25 countries of the continent, as confirmed by the Cuban Judo Federation, organizer of the event, in a press release Tuesday.

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Cuban women's judo squad prepares Worlds in Europe

The Cuban women's judo squad was set to travel Friday to training camps in Spain and France, to prepare for the World Championships in Chelyabinsk, Russia, in August.

Cuba's sports news website Jit reported the squad is headed by Idalis Ortiz, 2012 London Olympic and 2013 Rio de Janeiro world champion, and current world leader in the over 78-kg class.

  • Published in Sports

Olympic champions herald Judo Grand Prix in Cuba

Olympic and world champions head the list of athletes from 47 countries and regions to compete in the first Judo Grand Prix in Havana, Cuba, from June 6 to 8, Cuban sports news website Jit said Thursday.

  • Published in Sports
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