Jamaican judokas delivered outstanding performances in the Dominican Republic on Thursday, to qualify for the upcoming 2023 Central America and Caribbean (CAC) Games.
Olympian Ashley McKenzie won all four of his fights the 60kg category, defeating Moises Rosado of Mexico in the final.
“I hope that winning here today sets the team in the right direction,” he said.
“I am pleased as we won our medals as a team. I am also happy with the gold as it’s my first competition back for a long time and just wanted to show what I was capable of.”
Meanwhile, Tom Davis, the 2019 Commonwealth Judo Championship gold medallist fighting in the 100kg class, defeated Alexis Esquivel of Mexico before narrowly losing to Antonio Rodriguez of Venezuela in the semi-final.
He would rebound to defeat Alexander Strachan of Bahamas to claim the bronze medal.
In the plus 100kg category, Steven Moore defeated Juan Landazuri of Colombia and then overcame Marvin Salazar of Nicaragua in the semi-final. Facing current world champion Andy Granda of Cuba in the final, Moore came up short but walked away with the silver medal.
Max Stewart, a new member of the team lost in extra time tot 2018 world silver medallist Ivan Silva of Cuba leaving him to settle for repechage. He grabbed the opportunity with both hands, overpowering Derick Burgos of the Dominican Republic before going on to defeat Carlos Perez of Venezuela to win the bronze medal.
“It was great to be back on the mat again after a long-term injury. Regardless of the result, it was an amazing feeling having the team behind me every step of the way and I’m excited for my future as a Jamaican judoka,” he said afterwards.
Tokyo 2020 Olympian Ebony Drysdale-Daley also showcased her talent in the 70kg category.
She defeated Karen Murillo of Colombia before facing Creymarlin Valdez of the Dominican Republic in the quarter-final. The Jamaican judoka stunned her Dominican opponent with a left sided koshi-guruma technique and proceeded to the semis where she was compressed by Idelannis Gomez of Cuba.
She then fought Luisa Bonilla of Colombia for the bronze medal but lost and finished fifth overall.
Team leader Luke Preston expressed his pride at how well the team performed.
“I am very proud of the team’s performance,” he said. “Every single player fought for a medal and gave it their all. What impressed me just as much as the wins on the mat was the team spirit. Jamaican judo can be very proud, and the future is bright.”
Jamaica Olympic Association President (JOA), Christopher Samuda was also impressed.
“The JOA’s continued investment in our members is paying dividends. Judo, as is the case with others, is now flexing confidently its muscle and punching admirably above its weight,” he said of the performance of the athletes, who’s association became a member of the JOA in 2019.
“We, the JOA, are in the real business of creating opportunities, actualizing talent and building regional and global stages on which aspirations can be realized.”
JOA Secretary General/CEO, Ryan Foster hailed the speed at which the sport of judo had established itself within the Jamaican sports landscape.
“Since the 2020 Tokyo Games, the sport of judo has made tremendous strides under the leadership of the association’s president and general secretary, Dwayne Barrett and Szandra Szogedi, respectively, and the partnership between the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) and the Jamaica Judo Association (JJA), continues to seize history-making opportunities in the sport,” he said.
“The five judokas who went to the Dominican Republic to qualify for the 2023 El Salvador CAC Games reaped success in stocking the association’s cabinet with medals which looks set to be decorated with more when the games in El Salvador get on the way on June 23.”