On February 13th four members of the Abaco Judo Club competed in The Cherry Blossom Open in Boynton Beach Florida bringing home two gold, three silver and one bronze.
The team which represented the Bahamas Judo Federation were Desmond Bootle, Dre Hall, Rachel Rolle and Alexander McIntosh and the coach was Regina Parotti.
“This was the first time the Bahamas Judo Federation team was comprised only of local Abaco Judoka and there was a lot of pressure on us.” said Coach Parotti. “We had traveled to this tournament before three years ago and only managed to win one fight. That was in the back of my mind when we got to the tournament Saturday morning.” This time however it would be different as early on Rachel Rolle the only female member on the team secured the gold medal in her division. “I started to relax and the team became very excited everyone wanted a medal.
Next up on the mat were Dre Hall and Desmond Bootle who because of their age competed in two different tournaments, the Open as well as an International Judo Federation (IJF) points tournament. Mr. Hall’s IJF fights were hard and in his silver medal match he took a hard fall and the referee had to call the medic to check him out. Under the current rules once the medic steps onto the mat the fight is over so Dre ended up with the bronze medal in this section of the tournament. He went on the take a silver medal in the Open.
Desmond Bootle took a quick gold in the IJF section of the tournament and then a silver in the Open. “My competition was harder in the Open then the IJF section but I was disappointed that I had no black belts in my division” said Bootle. Coach Parotti explained that as a brown belt the only thing Desmond needs to earn his black belt is a victory in international competition over another black belt.
By late afternoon everyone was tired and happy as we had secured five medals, our last Judoka to step onto the mat was Alexander ‘AJ’ McIntosh who is a yellow belt. “AJ has only been practicing Judo for a short time but he wanted to add to the team’s medal count and he certainly did with a great silver medal win. Like his team mate before him AJ took a hard fall in the gold medal round and was slow getting up and the referee called the medic to check him. “I was not hurt but the rules are clear and my fight was over. But I was happy with my silver medal. I was very nervous as this was my first time competing in a tournament but I enjoyed it and look forward to more tournaments”, said young McIntosh who is a native of Green Turtle Cay.
The team was funded by donations from members from the Abaco community and a big thank you goes out to everyone who helped to make this possible. “If I had the funds, with the level of talent these young people have and their dedication to Judo I am confident Abaco could become a power house in international Judo,” said Parotti. “Next year Judo will become a CARIFTA sport as well as one of the sports in the Youth Commonwealth Games and really the only thing holding us back from fielding a great team out of Abaco is funds.”