Cuban Judo Is Also Impacted by Departures and Lack of Support

Idalys Ortiz (78 kg/172 lb) won the bronze medal for Cuba in Austria.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, March 11, 2024 –Iván Silva, Andy Granda and Idalys Ortiz avoided a debacle for Cuban judo at the Grand Prix Austria 2024, which ended this Sunday. The gold medals in the 90 kg/ 198 lb category, silver in the 100 kg/221 lb, and bronze in the 78 kg/172 lb obtained by these athletes, in this respective order, give them enough possibilities in the rankings to qualify for the Olympic Games in Paris 2024.

However, there were athletes who “lost the possibility of advancing.” According to Jit,  a government-run sports newspaper, they could not “maintain the status with which they came to the contest.” Magdiel Estrada (in the 73 kg/161 lb category) was one of those cited by the media that missed his opportunity to qualify.  His participation in Paris depends on the invitation granted by the International Olympic Committee and the International Judo Federation.

Orlando Polanco (66 kg/146 lb) was another of the Cuban competitors who, failing to score points, descended in the qualifying ranking. The possibilities for this judoka depend on future events. According to the same digital media, the “instability” of Idelannis Gómez (70 kg/154 lb) led her to being in 47th place, with little chance of winning a ticket to the Olympic Games.

This sport, which has won 37 Olympic medals for the Island – 6 golds, 15 silvers and 16 bronzes – has also been impacted by defections. Judo has its best exponent in Idalys Ortiz. The native of Artemis reigns in the 78 kg/172 lb category with the bronze medal that she won at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, a gold in London 2012, a silver in Rio de Janeiro 2016 and another silver in Tokyo 2020.

Ortiz is the hope of this sport for Paris 2024 with a record that is difficult to match. In addition to her Olympic medals, she has eight medals in world competitions. She has been three-time champion of the Pan American Games, has won 11 medals in continental sports tournaments and accumulated more than 30 on the World Judo Tour.

This sport, which has given the Island 37 Olympic medals – 6 golds, 15 silvers and 16 bronzes – has also been impacted by defections. Between July and September of last year, nine judokas ended their relationship with the Cuban sports entity

The bronze medalist at the Budapest Judo World Championship (2017), Kaliema Antomarchi, boarded a flight to Serbia in September, a route followed by many Cubans to access the European Union. This athlete’s departure coincided with the escapes in Canada of Samarys Gregorio, Odelin García and Yurisleydis Hernández after winning second place in the Pan American and Oceania Championship held in Calgary.

Vanesa Godinez, Mellisa Hurtado, Santa Virgen Romero, Blanca Elena Torres and Lutmary García also left the Cuban team in May, during their training in France.

Iván Silva won a gold medal for Cuba in the 90 kg/198 lb category in the Grand Prix Austria 2024 / X/@Judo

The first to separate from the team were Vanesa Godinez, who in 2022 won a silver medal at the European Judo Open in Australia, and Mellisa Hurtado, who in the 52 kg/115 lb category, won the gold medal after beating the Swiss Fabienne Kocher in the same event. Santa Virgen Romero left the training in the first quarter of that year.

In addition, the “inattention and lack of maintenance” was denounced in an interview with Cubanet by the bronze medalist in Central American games and coach of the Judo Academy in Havana, Yosvani Pérez Hernández. “They have to see that they are not doing their job. The health of judo is being lost,” he said.

Pérez Hernández said that among the shortcomings they face is the disappearance of work areas in the communities, not having a fixed headquarters, a lack of equipment for training and not being able to count on incentives for progressing.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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