Havana. August 31, 2007
POR ANNE-MARIE GARCIA — Special for Granma International—
WITH the impetus of the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro behind them, members of the Cuban judo team are preparing themselves for the World Championships in that same Brazilian city, from September 13 through 15.
At last July’s Pan American Games, there was a hard-fought battle between the host country Brazil and Cuba. On the final day of competition, tempers were beginning to fray to such a point that a commotion in one of the stands forced the competition to be interrupted for over an hour.
When the finals came to an end, the judokas from Brazil and Cuba held hands and stood up on the tatami to salute the public after which, Brazilian Danielle Zangrando, champion in the 57kg category, recalled that "the philosophy behind judo is not one of violence. We have to applaud all the athletes who have sacrificed so much to be here."
At the Pan American Games, Cuba finished in first place on the medals table for judo with five gold, three silver and five bronze, ahead of Brazil (4-6-3) and the United States (3-1-2).
DRIULIS GONZALEZ FROM RIO TO…RIO
Cuban Driulis González (63 kilos) obtained her fourth gold medal at the Pan American Games in Rio.
After this historic triumph, the Cuban athlete announced that she is thinking about next year’s Olympic Games but the road leads to the World Championships in Rio first.
The 34-year old experienced judoka explained that in a high level competition, "I go out without feeling under pressure, really concentrating on not listening to the noise of the crowd and trying only to hear my coach’s instructions."
González will be taking part in her eighth World Championships; competitions in which she has obtained an impressive harvest of two gold medals (1995 and 1999), two silver (1997 and 2003), and two bronze (1993 and 2005).
"I’m not thinking about setting a record; while I’m enjoying what I’m doing and have the motivation for it, I’m going to continue," affirmed the judoka, who has also won an Olympic gold medal (1996), one silver (2000) and a bronze (2004).
Step by step, González said that she is preparing herself for Beijing where "discipline and a tough training schedule" will provide her with the possibility of bringing home another Olympic medal.
YURISLEYDIS LUPETHEY IS BACK
Yurisleidis Lupethey (57 kilos), World champion in 2001, did not compete in the Pan American Games and will return to the team having recovered from an injury that kept her away from international competition for a year.
Lupethey, bronze medalist at the 2004 Olympics, "is a top quality judoka, fully recovered from an injury and who could reach the podium at the World Championships", affirmed coach Ronaldo Veitia.
At the Pan American Games in Rio, Yagnelys Mestre won a bronze medal in the 57-kilo category. The 2005 World champions Yanet Bermoy (48 kilos) and Yurisel Laborde (78 kilos) are leading the island’s team, completed by Yalennis Castillo (70), Sheila Espinosa (52), Ivis Dueñas and Idalis Ortiz (78-plus kilos and Open).
The Cuban women who are training in Venezuela "are very courageous and they demonstrated that in Rio (at the Pan Americans). It’s a very young squad. They all know that when you are working towards winning, you don’t anticipate defeat even when it seems to be slipping away a little," confirmed Veitía.
THE MEN’S TEAM WITH EIGHT JUDOKAS
It has been quite some time since Cuba last presented a men’s team with eight representatives at the World Championships.
Pan American champions in Rio, Oscar Braison (100-plus kilos) and Oreidis Despaigne (100 kilos) are heading the group that is also made up of Continental silver medalists Jorge Benavides (90) and Yasmani Piker (60) as well as bronze medalists Oscar Cárdenas (81), Yordanis Arencibia (66), and Ronald Girones (73).
Tenochitlan Cardenas (open) is the eighth member of the team led by Justo Noda and they are currently in Brazil training in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
At the 2005 World Championships in Cairo, the final medal table was as follows: Japan (3-5-3), followed by the Netherlands (3-0-3), Cuba (2-0-1), China (2-0-0), France (1-2-4), Britain (1-2-0), Russia (1-1-1), the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Brazil and Hungary (1-0-1).