|While Cuba totally dominated the first day of the judo competition
in Santo Domingo, Brazil hit back with a vengeance on the second. Cuba's women still proved
to be in a class of their own, but in two Cuba-Brazil men's finals, it was the South Americans
who prevailed. And a healthy following of fellow Games' athletes helped spur them on to greater
efforts as Brazil struck back.
Women's under 57kg
World champion Yurisleidis Lupety was always going to be the big favourite in the women's
under 57kg category but she almost suffered a rude awakening in the quarter-final. She turned
in for the customary Cuban dropping Sode-tsuri-komi-goshi against Argentina's Melissa Rodriguez
but found herself taken over backwards. Rodriguez countered with Tani-otoshi and was extremely
unlucky to be awarded only Yuko as Lupety's entire back hit the mat.
The Argentine was causing her many problems but Lupety showed her class by dealing with
those, moving ahead with two scores of her own and then winning with two excellently executed
throws, each for Waza-ari. The first was a dropping Seoi-nage and the second a rudimentary
Morote-gari. Canada's Michelle Buckingham seemed to freeze a little against her in the semi-final
after producing some powerful judo to that point. She was beaten and then Venezuela's Rudymar
Fleming was throw for a clean Ippon in the final after a lively opening.
Fleming had caused a major upset by knocking out Brazil's Tania Ferreira in the quarter-final
and then edging past Ellen Wilson of USA in the semi-final. But both those opponents left
the competition in high spirits after securing places on the podium. Wilson produced a brilliant
Uchi-mata as a counter to De-ashi-barai against Rodriguez to score Ippon. Ferreira also
won by Ippon with a crouching Seoi-nage to beat Buckingham.
Women's under 63kg
Driulis Gonzalez showed she is just as formidable at under 63kg as she was at under 57kg by
winning the Pan-American Games title with a sweet foot-sweep. Brazil's Vania Ishii looked
focussed and determined as she stepped onto the mat for the final but one little slip was
all the triple-Olympic medallist needed. Ishii stepped cumbersomely forward and Gonzalez swept
her off her feet. The Cuban lost her grip and let go completely but Ishii landed with such
a thud that the referee could be excused for his initial reaction - to thrust his arm straight
up into the air and award Ippon.
Gonzalez's toughest fight was undoubtedly her semi-final against Argentine Daniela Krukower.
It was tit-for-tat all the way through as first Krukower registered Yuko and then so too
did Gonzalez. But two more such scores from the Cuban forced Krukower to come forward in
search of a big and decisive throw, thus exposing herself to greater risk. She was eventually
rewarded when she came back to claim a bronze medal by armlocking Mexican Miriam Ruiz with
Juji-gatame having already thrown her for Waza-ari.
The other bronze medal contest was hugely entertaining as the extreme left grip of Ecuador's
Diana Maza came up against the extreme right of Canada's Isabelle Pearson. She has come
on in leaps and bounds since a year ago when she looked out of her depth at this level in
the Pan-American championship. She drew first blood with an Uchi-mata-maki-komi for Waza-ari
and then played a waiting game to counter Maza's frequent Uchi-mata attacks. It worked as
she countered her for Ippon and a well-deserved bronze medal.
Men's under 73kg
A gruelling and brilliant category was fittingly decided in the most dramatic fashion - with
just two seconds left on the clock. And finally the Cuban stranglehold on the gold medals
was broken. Brazil's Luis Camilo was a man living a charmed life when he faced up to Cuba's
Rubert Martinez in the final. He had trailed by two scores in his semi-final against Argentina's
Rodrigo Lucenti and only two late penalties for the Argentine - the second awarded after time
ran out for dropping - secured his place in the final.
That was as absorbing a contest as had been seen in the tiny atmospheric judo hall in Santo
Domingo. Neither fighter could muster a score but there was enough fully committed attacks
and fighters drawn onto their tip-toes scrambling desperately for balance, to make this
a tense and exciting affair. It swung decisively when Camilo was harshly penalised for passivity
with little more than a minute left. Martinez did not rest on his laurels and continued
to attack Camilo as time flickered away. It was getting desperately late but Camilo did
not panic. He waited for an opening and when it came, stepped purposefully to his left,
drew Martinez onto his right foot and swept him onto his back with a rugged Hiza-guruma.
The referee indicated Yuko, the clock counted down, two, one, and the buzzer - Camilo was
champion. It was remarkable and a healthy Brazilian contingent erupted. Camilo paid tribute
to a brilliant foe by raising his arm aloft and judo was a resounding winner.
There were shocks aplenty in this category, not least Martinez knocking out the twice Pan-American
tournament champion Chuck Jefferson of USA in the semi-final. The American was a little
fortunate to last into golden score but then lost it when he became caught underneath the
Cuban in his own counter-attack pick-up. Jefferson landed on his back from a move Martinez
initiated and the Cuban scored Ippon. There was worse to follow for the American who was
dumped for a spectacular Ippon in the bronze medal contest when Canada's Jean Marceau wrapped
him up expertly in anticipation of a thumping Uchi-mata. Ernst Laraque of Haiti won a popular
bronze medal with an Ippon victory against Lucenti. The score was a little fortunate but
Laraque deserved it for a determined and explosive Osoto-gari.
Men's under 81kg
The second day of competition ended with a puff rather than a bang as the under 81kg final
developed into a scrappy and tactical affair. Brazil's Flavio Canto stifled and thwarted
the previously explosive and dynamic Cuban Gabriel Arteaga. Canto is an experienced campaigner
and one of Pan-America's finest and few genuine medal contenders on the world level. And
he mustered all his cunning and guile to suffocate Arteaga to the extent that he simply
ran out of ideas and was wound up to Hansoku-make.
It was a disappointing end for the Cuban who had been such a breath of fresh air earlier
in the tournament with a massive Koga-style one-handed Sode-tsuri-komi-goshi to beat Argentina's
Ariel Scanga and then a brilliant leg-grab Ouchi-gari to flatten USA's Aaron Cohen. But
he could not repeat the heroics in the final against one as wily as Canto. Scanga fought
back from his disappointment to win bronze in a tough battle against Uruguayan Alvaro Paseyro.
The French trained Paseyro was brilliant beaten in the semi-final by Canto and then forced
to settle for more heart-ache as he was edged out by Scanga.
Home hopes rested on Jose Boissard for a bronze medal as he faced Colombia's Mario Valles.
With a passionate home crowd and a bus-load of his most fervent supporters wearing home-made
fan-club T-shirts, he was not lacking backing. But Valles just had a little too much for him.
Despite slipping behind by two penalty scores, Valles piled on the pressure and eventually
Boissard wilted. He was penalised to Keikoku and Colombia won its first medal of the Games'
|Pan Am Games 2003
GOMEZ, Angelo (USA)
ARENCIBIA, Yordanis (CUB)
CAMILO, Luiz (BRA)
CANTO, Flavio (BRA)
OLSON, Brian (USA)
SABNIMO, Mario (BRA)
HERNANDEZ, Daniel (BRA)
CARRION, Danieska (CUB)
MELO, Neyla (COL)
LUPETEY, Yurisleidis (CUB)
GONZALEZ, Driulis (CUB)
ZULETA, Regla (CUB)
SILVA, Edinanci (BRA)
BELTRAN, Daima (CUB)