Five young judo fighters from Abaco Judo Club joined seven colleagues from Nassau and defeated many of the world’s finest players, including champions from Brazil, America, the Dominican Republic and Republic of South Africa to win Bronze, Silver, one 4th and one 5th place at the US Junior Open Championships in Fort Lauderdale on July 28th.
“This is the toughest tournament in our region. There were over 600 top fighters representing 26 countries, so we knew we had to train especially hard to even have a chance of placing in the top ten” said Head Coach Regina Parotti. “When Dre Hall of Sweetings Village defeated one of the top Brazilian fighters early into the competition, we knew we had the possibility to break through”. Dre went on to defeat his final opponent and won Bronze for The Bahamas.
Rebecca Strachan of Bahama Palm Shores stunned the judo world when she defeated top champions from America, the Dominican Republic and Suriname to reach the finals. “My heart almost stopped when I realized who Rebecca would be fighting in the final round: a terrific, tough champion from Brazil” said Sensei Albert Lill. “For the first two minutes of the fight it was intense: fantastic attacks and counterattacks by both players and neither fighter made a single mistake as the crowd started roaring louder with each passing second! For Rebecca to defeat so many top world players and come so close to winning the Gold is truly astounding. She has only 4 years of experience – just like the rest of our team – so her future is bright indeed”.
Ozeke Swain of Murphy Town just barely missed getting the Bronze and finished in fourth place after defeating a top American fighter but finally losing to an excellent black belt from California.
Desmondo Bootle had an outstanding performance, ending in 5th place in what was probably the toughest division. “Desmondo made the entire Bahamas team proud both on and off the mat” said Coach Parotti. “He fought really well and was a true ambassador for the nation at all events”.
Desmond Bootle fought hard and well against a very, very tough field of seasoned national champs.
“We had a yearlong strategic plan to get our team to this level” said Sensei Albert Lill. “The first step was selecting the best of our club members through local competition, and then giving them specialized training three days a week. Then they had to place first or second at the Bahamas Open National Championships in April to advance to this tournament”.
In order to get the students up to international class level, a special intensive training regimen was instituted and strictly enforced. “Every Elite Team player was given a specific physical fitness training program that they had to complete every morning from 5:30 am to 6:30 am. All were continuously monitored, tested and recorded to gauge their progress in strength, speed and endurance. Then we trained from 4 pm to 6 pm five days a week with extremely difficult and strenuous drills including throws, chokes, arm bars and pins” stated Sensei Lill. “Some of the drills were so intense we had to build a springboard floor using old tires and plywood to support the mats in order to minimize the risk of injury.
“Everyone thought we were crazy when Sensei Lill and I said that our goal was to medal at the US Open this year” said Coach Parotti. “We have nothing but old mats and old uniforms. Now that we have accomplished this season’s objectives, our sights are set on winning at the CAC and Pan Am Games and then the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China in 2014.”
“We’re well on our way to meeting next year’s objectives” said Sensei Lill. “Abaco and The Bahamas are now recognized, respected and feared throughout the judo world. We are also delighted with the caliber of fighting that Abaco’s younger players have demonstrated; several will join the Elite Team next year”.
Abaco Judo Club’s ultimate goal is to have at least one student from Abaco represent The Bahamas at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016.
Anyone wishing to join the Club (ages 5 – 35) should contact Head Coach Parotti at 475-1632. Space is extremely limited as class sizes are intentionally kept small to maximize hands-on, world-class training.