This post is a little over due but we have been so busy over the past week and a half that I just have not had time to sit down and write anything. I have started posting videos of techniques in the meantime that you can checkout at http://www.allaboutjudo.com/category/video/. The first is of me teaching one of my favorite turn overs into tate shiho gatame and the other one is 2012 Paralympian, Ron Hawthorne demonstrating a choke he picked up from one of the Japanese 66kg players at camp.
As I said, the past week has been very busy. The US hosted three tournaments on July 13-14, then we had a three day training camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. The first tournament, held on Saturday, July 13, was the 2013 IBSA World Youth Championships. The United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) hosted this multi-sport event, but Heidi Moore was the tournament director and I was the coach for USA Judo’s team. The very young US team did well, earning 1 gold, 2 silver, and 3 bronze medals. I’ll post links to the full results at the end of this article. One of the standouts for the US team was newcomer, Ben Goodrich who took first in the boys 18-20 -100kg division. He only had one other kid so the fought the best 2 out of 3 with Ben winning both matches pretty easily. Ben was a high school wrestler who had a 33 and 3 record in his senior year. I found out about Ben through my old teammate, Jim Mastro, and actually got to meet him when I went to Jim’s camp back in July. I wrote about my trip to Minnesota in Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sports Camp, What an Experience.Ã¢â‚¬Â Ben won both his matches by throwing his opponent from Russia with a variation of Ko Soto Gari, then pinning him for ippon. Ben is only a yellow belt in judo so he still has room for growth but is a tremendous athlete, with a bright future in Paralympic Judo.
The next event, also on Saturday, July 13, was the Para Pan American Championships also hosted by the USABA with Heidi as the tournament director and me as the coach for USA Judo’s team. In this one, the US team, comprised of a mix of athletes from newcomers to Paralympians. The US team earned 2 gold, 4 silver, and 3 bronze medals in this one. Some of the most exciting matches of the day were in the -90 and -100 kg division with our 2012 Paralympic medalists, Dartanyon Crockett and Myles Porter. Dartanyon dominated the -90 kg division, including the final match when Dartanyon, 2012 Paralympic bronze medalist, went up against 2012 Paralympic champion, Jorge Hierrezuelo Marcillis of Cuba. Dartanyon lost this match when he was caught for a waza ari and he couldn’t get it back, but Dartanyon completely dominated the Paralympic Champion throughout the match. I know I may be a little biased here but that attach that resulted in the waza ari was one of only two attacks in the entire match by the Cuban. Dartanyon was working him over and threw him for what everyone except the referees in the match thought was ippon. But the scoring in judo is subjective, what bothered me the most is how the Cuban finished the match with a wazari and not one shido! It is beyond me how you can spend so much time in a match without attacking and not even draw one shido. I have seen players do a lot more work than the Cuban did in this match and get 4 shidos. The Cuban is great player, I’m not trying to take anything away from him but in that match Dartanyon was a far superior player even if the referees did not allow the scoreboard to show it. I will say that the Cuban better get to work because the way Dartanyon has developed over the past year, it will not be long before he will be looking up at Dartanyon on the medal stand!
The other exciting division was the -100kg division. This was a round-robin match-up with 2012 Paralympic silver medalist, Myles Porter Ã¢â‚¬â€œ USA, 2000 gold 2011 bronze medalist (81kg), Isao Cruz Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Cuba, and 2000, 2004, 2008 gold, and 2012 bronze medalist, Antonio Silva Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Brazil. The first time through, that’s right I said the first time through, Silva beat Cruz by ippon, Porter beat Silva by ippon, then Cruz beat Porter by ippon. In that match, Myles was looking a little flat and got caught in a pin. After the ref called ippon the Cuban player sat up over Myles with his hands raised and yelled something celebratory in Spanish then stood up and turned to the obviously pro-Myles crowd and celebrated his win. A little side note, I remember this kid from the 1998 World Championships when the US team that I was on fought Cuba in the team competition for the bronze medal. He fought a really tough match with our 81kg player Richard Kinney. The match went down to the very end with Cuba pulling out the win. After the match Cruz ran over and started shouting in the face of my coach, Larry Lee. It was very heated, but Larry only responded by holding up 5 fingers and saying 5th, because even with his win, we won the overall round to take the bronze medal.
Ok, back to the less distant past. Because each player had won 1 match by ippon and lost 1 match by ippon, they ended in a 3-way tie, so the division had to be fought again. In the first match, Cruz beat Silva who was visibly tired throughout the match. The next match was Porter and Silva, but, exhausted from his last three matches, Silva pulled out, leaving Porter and Cruz. After losing to Cruz in the first round, then having him taunt him after the win, Myles was fired up and dominated Cruz, knocking him down a few times then arm-barring him for ippon. This was the last match of the tournament and made for a very exciting finish!
I also wanted to congratulate Adnan Gutic for his first Pan American win. Adnan has been with us for a few years now and missed qualifying for the 2012 Games by a few matches, but is working hard to make the team in 2016. Adnan is one of the hardest working athletes I have ever worked with so it was really awesome to see him on top of the podium. When the winners were announced there was a question from the Brazilian team who thought their player had finished second. I ran over to the announcer and took a look at the bracket to make sure. Because it was a round robin division with 5 players, it is not just about wins, but how you win, so it came down to the total number of points and the Brazilian had in fact taken third. When I finished explaining that to the Brazilian coaches, I heard Adnan from atop the podium say, Ã¢â‚¬Å“but I’m still in first right?Ã¢â‚¬Â Great job Adnan!
Now on to tournament number three for the weekend, the US International Championships for the Blind, hosted by USA Judo with Heidi as the tournament director and me as the USA team coach. Over the past few years we have hosted a VI US Open along with the regular US Open but since there is no US Open this year we decided to host a separate event and this turned out to be one of the biggest VI events in the world, far bigger than anything previously held in the United States. We had 83 VI athletes, including 12 of the medalists from the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. In this event, the US team earned 1 silver, and 6 bronze medals. This was a very strong event, with Dartanyon Crockett taking bronze with another tough loss to the Cuban in the semi-final match. He went on to beat one of the Canadian players, Tony Walby, for the bronze medal. Walby was an elite player in the sighted ranks in Canada for many years. Myles lost in the semi-final to Oliver Upmann from Germany due to a leg grab, then lost a tough match to the Cuban to take 5th on the day.
2012 Paralympian, Ron Hawthorne took a hard fought bronze. Ron had a tough first match against Selli Musa of Turkey. Ron dominated the match and had several small scores then threw the Turkish player for ippon with Uchi Mata Sukashi. In his next match he fought a tough Korean player. There was no score about a minute into the match when Ron grabbed the leg and was disqualified from the match! Remind me to write a blog on the leg grab and other IJF rules! The loss to Korea who, by the way, went on to win by getting leg grabbed in the final as well, dropped Ron into the bronze medal match where he blasted Taiga Kato of Japan with a beautiful Tai Otoshi in the first minute of the match to win the bronze medal!
Overall the events ran very well and we are hoping to make the US International a yearly event and are even looking into what it will take to make it a qualifying event for the Paralympic Games. As of right now there are only three events a judo athlete can attend to qualify for the Paralympic Games, and that is not nearly enough! Wow, I am seeing all kinds of potential future blog topics as I am writing this one.
Ok, so now the tournament is over, it’s time for camp. After two great days of competition we had a three-day training camp at the OTC. The camp format was two practices a day for three days. All but the last practice started with a warm-up then about 20-30 minutes of technical practice, then randori. Rather then Heidi and I doing the technical portion of every practice, we thought it would be good to get some of the other coaches involved. I taught for the first practice, then 3-time Olympian Celita Schutz did the evening practice on the first day. Kumagai Sensei of Japan took the first practice on the second day and J.P. Bell of Great Britain took the second practice on day 2. Heidi took the technical portion of the first practice on day 3 and then we did not do a technical session for the last practice. Some of the teams had left after the morning session so we decided to just warm-up and go right into randori and we finished a few minutes early.
All three tournaments and the camp were a great success and several of the coaches told me if we have the US International and a camp next year and do the same thing they will definitely attend. The biggest concern you have as a tournament director is hoping people will come to your event then hoping everything runs smoothly. For the weekend, we had 120 athletes over all three tournaments with 83 in the US International and 70 athletes stayed for camp. Can you imagine a camp with 70 blind people on the mat at the same time?
I have watched Heidi worry over the Denver Classic for the past 12 years. It has always been a great event because Heidi does such a great job of organizing and running it. I also feel the three tournaments and camp were such a huge success because Heidi did such a great job of recruiting all the other countries and because she did such a great job organizing and running them. She also has an awesome assistant (lackey) – me. I’m only a great assistant because I do what she tells me to do!
So for that I applaud USA Judo for allowing Heidi to take charge and run the event and Heidi for all her hard work to make the event such a success!
I also wanted to say a big THANK YOU to the OTC athletes. Many of the athletes not only came to the evening practice, which was an hour earlier than their normal practice time, but they also came to the morning workout as well. Your time and efforts are greatly appreciated, not only by me, but by the international players coaches as well!
As always, thanks for reading.
Talk to you soon…