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Expect a medal!


MIKE KING

Expect a medal!

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AT?THE?just concluded Commonwealth Games in Scotland, judo was a few heartbeats away from securing a bronze.
That performance from the three-member team, headlined by Onoh-Obasi Okey’s gallant effort in the women’s 48 kg class, has given the sport new impetus and increased expectations for the forthcoming Central American and Caribbean (CAC)?Games slated for Mexico in November.
Track and field by way of 24-year-old Shane Brathwaite in the men’s 110 hurdles won the only medal for tiny Barbados in Glasgow, while judo, in its own way, won hearts with a satisfying performance.
Coach Ian Weithers told the MIDWEEK?SPORT judo still had a long way to go but acknowledged that the performances at the Commonwealth Games would have enhanced the profile of the sport and given it new-found respect.
“It is not easy to produce a world-class judo player or medallist from a small population. We in Barbados have been working hard and we know what we have to do. It’s great that people’s eyes are opening and realising that we have been applying the science to the sport.
“The results are starting to come and we have to move on from here and look to make some impact in Mexico,” he said.
The Pan Am Cup which will feature judokas from the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, will be held here at the Gymnasium in October and according to Weithers, that tournament will be a major gauge on this country’s readiness for the CAC?Games.
 “It’s a world-level event featuring 33 countries and will be huge for us. If someone here medals at the Pan Am Cup or comes close, they are likely to be on the podium for the CAC?Games. This tournament will be at a level higher than Mexico and fans will see high quality play from more than 200 competitors,” he noted.
Weithers is quietly confident about the future for judo.
“On our previous visit to the Commonwealth Games, in 2002, we took two athletes and placed seventh. This time we had someone who placed fifth, the highest placing for us ever and went to the medal round.
“Our first athlete Asa Weithers had a 12-second match against the Kenyan and took him out by a full point. That was the fastest finish for the entire tournament. He then lost in the round of 16 and didn’t progress.
“Onoh beat the girl from New Zealand, who is the Oceania champion. She then lost to the girl who became the eventual gold medallist, but got into the medal round. Four seconds from the end of Onoh’s  bronze medal contest, she made a score or so we thought. That was moved off the board and there was much discussion as to why.
“We had the bronze medal briefly in our hands and it escaped us, but everyone knew we were at the competition and know that we have the capability to stand on the podium,”?he said.
Much of the core work is done at home but Weithers made the age-old call for more top-class competition which would provide judokas with the kind of combat required to be a more potent force at international  meets.
“Just before heading to the Commonwealth Games, we journeyed to the Dominican Republic. They had in Onoh’s, Asa’s and Kyle’s division, about 10-15 athletes. If we try to bring that here, it would be a very costly exercise.
“The tour to the Dominican Republic was very rewarding. Each session had about 20 bouts with different styles. International teams are spending their time in training camps, because judo is about combat in various styles. It is the combat that we need and that is what we are looking for as we move forward.
“My prediction is that next time we stand in judo at the Commonwealth Games, one of our athletes is going to hold a medal in their hand,” he added.

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