Day Four closed in Miami on USA Judo’s first World Cadet Championships with more blistering competition as the heavyweights had their chance on the mats to pursue a piece of the $50,000 in prize money and team berths for the Youth Olympic Games next year in Nanjing.
Japan added a gold medal to its warchest and held the lead position among all nations at this pinnacle event for teens ages 15 – 17. Russia bumped Canada from the second spot with two gold medals, a silver and six bronze. Canada finished with two gold medals. From there, medals were very, very thinly spread with not one country taking more than one gold, indicative of the ferocity of talent that had come from around the world to vie for those precious spots on the podium.
Team USA finished the tournament with a fifth and seventh place, won by Miami teens respectively – Adonis Diaz, 55 kg., who went 3-2 on Day One out of 46 top athletes, and Brian Abreu, 50 kg., who went 2-2 in brackets of 33 top teens.
They all have reason to be very proud, having competed against the “best of the best of the best,” said Jose H. Rodriguez, USA Judo’s CEO. And Rodriguez said he was confident that our athletes were on the way to competing next year at the Junior World Championships, which will be held in the United States, he announced – the location has yet to be determined.
The Junior World Championships is for ages 15 – 20, another extreme-elite tournament for athletes fighting their way toward the highest senior podiums in the world. Each of these tournaments is a veritable rite of passage for athletes headed toward the Olympic Games and Senior World Championships.
Rodriguez thanked the International Judo Federation for the privilege of hosting the World Cadet Championships.
“This has been four long days of competition but it couldn’t have closed with better judo, these great, great fighters laying it on the line, the French, the Cubans,” Rodriguez said. “And we are so, so very honored and proud having hosted this championship. We are very appreciative to the International Judo Federation and their leader, Mr. Marius Vizer, for having trusted the United States with this important event.”
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“This is the third major championship that we have hosted in less than a year,” Rodriguez said. “Next year, once again, we are here in the United States, hosting another World Championship, the juniors, and, hopefully, I believe, we have proven ourselves worthy of hosting the major championship of all, which is the Senior World Championship.”
Rodriguez pointed to comments at the beginning of the tournament by USA Judo President Lance Nading during USA Judo’s recent Grand Prix, also held in Miami, that “for our sport to grow in this country we need to continue to bring this level of championship competition so that the world begins to notice the United States of America,” not only for national stars -- Kayla Harrison, Marti Malloy, Travis Stevens, Nick Delpopolo and Angelica Delgado – but as a hotbed of the sport.
Rodriguez also urged those who remain “naysayers” at this historic juncture of the sport in the United States, “to put their energy toward growing judo in this country.”
The World Cadet Championships is followed Monday by a first Judo for Children seminar sponsored by the International Judo Federation at the Doral Resort and Spa. Mr. Nicolas Messiner, IJF Media and Communications Director, and Mr. Ruben Houkes, IJF Judo for Children Commission and Olympic bronze medallist, will unveil a new programme to the delegations.
Cuban-American living legend and 9th Dan Mr. Luis Guardia, who was one of the founding members of the Pan American Judo Confederation, has been volunteering in judogi control as he did at the Miami Grand Prix in June.
“I’ve very much enjoyed being here at such an important event,” said the 80-year-old, who shared his incredible story in his new book The Origin of Pan American Judo.
“For me this competition is the most important of all as it represents our next generation. It pleases me to see so many countries winning medals and in particular for 19 out of the 24 Pan American Judo Confederation member nations to be competing is a great accomplishment.”
Guardia said, “I am working with Mr. Jose Humberto Rodriguez, Pan American Judo Confederation Development Director and USA Judo Chief Executive Officer, to develop new projects to provide technical and economic support to countries in Pan America.”
The World Cadet Championships is sanctioned by the International Judo Federation and hosted by USA Judo, the national governing body under the U.S. Olympic Committee that fosters the sport and builds teams for Olympic and other elite competition. The World Cadet Judo Championships is made possible with the support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners.
By Ernest Pund, USA Judo Communications and IJF Communications contributing