Cuba’s Parapan Am Games judo lineup includes top competitors. Yangalini Jiménez is going for his third gold, Dalidaivis Rodríguez and Jorge Hierrezuelo are both seeking to retain their titles from Guadalajara 2011, and two-time paralympic champion Isao Cruz is intent on taking home Parapan Am gold. They are the cornerstone of Cuban judo in the V Parapan American Games, and have stepped up up their preparation to ensure the best possible outcome.
During an evening workout at the Parapan Am athletes’ village gym Yangalini Jiménez told JIT the athletes are determined to perform well in all circumstances. “It doesn’t matter whether we go up against new opponents or those we know, because matches are won on the tatami. That’s what we are all going for because we know judo will be crucial for the final results,” he said. Jiménez is a native of Sancti Spiritus province and holder of the Rio de Janiero 2007 and Guadalajara 2011 titles in the over 100 kg category.
Isao Cruz, from Villa Clara province, came to Toronto to make up for something still missing from his impressive career. Despite Paralympic gold medals in Syndey 2000 and Beijing 2008 he has yet to collect a Parapan Am title.
Cruz, who shies away from making such predictions, nonetheless confirmed his intention to go for his missing Parapan Am gold. At the same time, the competition in his weight class (81 kg) has become more intense with the entry of Mexican Eduardo Ávila, the gold medal winner at this year’s World Cup in Hungary.
Gold medal favourites Jorge Hierrezuelo and Dalidaivis Rodríguez also spoke to JIT during their evening workout.
“For me it will also be an honour to dedicate a gold medal to our Commander in Chief for his 89th birthday,” Rodriguez noted. August 13 is the birthday of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, and on that day Dalidaivis Rodriguez, Isao Cruz and Gerardo Rodríguez (73 kg) will all be engaged in judo bouts.
Along with fellow judokas Reinier Acosta (60 kg), Sergio Arturo Pérez (66 kg) and Yordani Fernández (100 kg) the Cuban team aims to hold on to first place in the discipline. Cuba secured that status four years ago with a medal count of five gold, four silver and one bronze.
Coaches Ivis Dueñas and Senén Ramos said that having the paralympic judokas being able to train alongside the world class, non-paralympic Cuban judo teams has greatly improved their status.