A post by Bloody Elbow Grappling Team member and Judo bum Ananse
This weekend is the first ever IJF Grand Prix in Havana, Cuba. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first ever major IJF competition in Cuba, a fact that is made more interesting by the fact that Cuba was until recently the best Judo nation in the Pan-American region by far. Now I'd give that place to Brazil, but Cuba is a very, very close second place. Their system turns out tons of good competitors, especially the women. Under different political circumstances, it would have been a venue on the international calendar for years now.
Since this is the first time Cuba has had a major event, they may have gone a little overboard. The hosts of any Grand Prix are allowed to field up to 4 athletes in every weight class. Usually they will field all 4 at some weights, 2 at some, 3 at others.... you get a spread depending on how much talent they have and who they either think can win or needs expusure to judo at the highest level. Cuba is fielding 4 people at every single weight division. 28 men, 28 women. there is the standard list of Cubans to watch out for like Oscar Brayson (Beijing bronze, world silver and multiple Pan-Am golds and silvers), Asley Gonzales (London silver, world gold and bronze, multiple Pan-Am golds and silvers, one of the most exciting people in his weight class), Yanet Bermoy Acosta (silvers in London and Beijing, gold and 2 silvers in the worlds and a ton of Pan-Am medals, mostly golds), Idalys Ortiz (London Gold, Beijing Bronze, world gold and 2 bronzes, a ton of Pan-Am golds) and Yalennis Castillo (Beijing silver, multiple Pan-Am medals).
I'd like to point out, I stuck to the most highly accomplished people out of the 56 Cuba is fielding because otherwise this would take too long. That squad has a ton more medals at the Pan-Ams, World University Games, Junior worlds, random international competitions and the Cuban national championships. Cuba intends to make a statement and be on the medal podiums a lot.
Now lets talk about who else is here for world ranking points and wants to give the Cubans a bit of a fight. First, Brazil, which is close enough to send over a solid team including one of my favourite people, Tiago Camilo, a multiple olympic, world and Pan-Am medalist across 3 weight classes and a super exciting judoka. Along with him pay attention to Victor Penalber, Hugo Pessanha, Leandro Cunha, Sarah Menezes (London gold, 3 world Bronzes, multiple Pan-Am medals), and Erika Miranda(World silver, multiple Pan-Ams). Canada will be sending along Antoine Valois-Fortier, London Bronze medalist and a big thrower. France is sending an all-women's squad of killers featuring Audrey "I make Chris Justino look weak and slow" Tcheumeo and Automne Pavia. Germany is also sending along a mainly female squad featuring Miryam Roper and Luise Malzahn. The UK is only sending 3, but that includes European bronze medalist and perennial prospect Ashley Mckenzie.
The USA is sending a fairly large squad helmed by its big guns Kayla Harrison, Travis Stevens and Marti Malloy. I really hope at least one of those 3 gets into MMA at some point. Harrison would murder most women at 145 and could probably make the weight, Stevens seems to be constantly injured, but has an exciting style and some of the best matwork in judo.
I'm also going to advise people to keep an eye out for Emmanuel Nartey of Ghana. He is a massive thrower and usually levels most of the lower competition until he runs into the elite people at his weight in the later rounds, but even then he is a handful.
The brackets start up at around 10 am EST, so here is the link to those. The finals will get started around 5 pm EST.
The schedule of competition is as follows:
Friday 6th June
Women: -48kg, -52kg, -57kg
Men: -60kg, -66kg
Saturday 7th June
Women: -63kg, -70kg
Men: -73kg, -81kg
Sunday 8th June
Women: -78kg, +78kg
Men: -90kg, -100kg, +100kg
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