14ymedio, Havana, 22 September 2023 — In less than three months, nine Cuban judokas have escaped. The most recent of these desertions has been that of Kaliema Antomarchi, bronze medalist in the Budapest Judo World Championship (2017). According to coach Daniel Gómez, the santiagueran decided to leave the Island legally and boarded a flight to Serbia, a route followed by many Cubans to access the European Union.
The coach revealed, without offering details, that the gold medalist in the past XXIV Central American and Caribbean Games of San Salvador and silver in the Pan American Judo Open in Lima (2023) in the 171-pound category, had “problems with the Cuban Judo Federation.”
Prior to her participation in San Salvador, the official press pointed to her as a favorite to win the gold medal, knowing that this event was Antomarchi’s first after not competing since the end of 2022 due to an injury. The head coach, Yordanis Arencibia, ventured to say that the athlete would win the first-place medal.
Before her injury, Kaliema Antomarchi achieved first place in the Panama Qualifying Tournament (2022). In 2019, she won the gold medal at the Judo Grand Slam in Brazil, and the silver medal at the Pan American Games and the Pan American Championship, both in Peru.
The departure of Kaliema Antomarchi coincided with the escape in Canada of the judokas Samarys Gregorio, Odelin García and Yurisleydis Hernández, who left the team that won second place in the Pan American and Oceania Judo Championship held in Calgary.
“It’s a shame that, to have a better life, you are forced to make radical decisions, such as leaving your country and your life behind, as well as living away from loved ones,” said María Celia Laborde Hernández, who now plays under the flag of the United States. The athlete highlighted the courage of the judokas who “left their lives behind to look for a better future.”
The escape of these athletes was announced on the Facebook page La Verdad del Judo [The Truth about Judo]. The post said that coach Ladiesky Leal also escaped.
The escape of four athletes accelerates the collapse of Cuban judo that already in the last week of May had suffered the escape of Vanesa Godinez, Mellisa Hurtado, Santa Virgen Romero, Blanca Elena Torres and Lutmary García from the team
In the competition, which was held in Calgary between September 15 and 16, 2023, Cuba left with the gold medal of Andy Granda (220.4 lbs), the silver medals of Orlando Polanco (145.5 lbs) and Idalys Ortiz (171.9 lbs), and the bronze medals of Jonathan Charón (132.2 lbs), Magdiel Estrada (160.9 lbs) and Maylín del Toro (138.8 lbs).
The escape of four athletes accelerates the collapse of Cuban judo that already, in the last week of May, had suffered the escape of Vanesa Godinez (105.8 lbs), Mellisa Hurtado (114.6 lbs), Santa Virgen Romero (171.9 lbs), Blanca Elena Torres (114.6 lbs) and Lutmary García (138.8 lbs) during their stay in France.
The coach of the Judo Academy in Havana, Yosvani Pérez Hernández, told CubaNet that this sport also faces a lack of investment. He regretted the loss of areas to train due to “the lack of maintenance.” Because of this, he said, “the health of judo is being lost.”
Athletes must buy their own training equipment, such as the judogui [traditional uniform] and finger tape, said a judoka.
Translated by Regina Anavy
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.