On Friday, August 14 at the Abilities Centre in Whitby, Yordani Fernández and Yangaliny Jiménez provided Cuba with its first two gold medals in judo at the V Parapan Am Games. They both competed in the 100kg category and won all their matches by Ippon.
Paralympic champion Jorge Hirruezuelo took the silver medal later in the day in the under 90 kg category.
Fernández’s win marked the the 15th gold medal for Cuba. He defeated Brazilian Arthur Cavalante in 1:18 minutes, Myles Porter of the U.S. in 1:08 and Benjamin Goodrich, also of the U.S. only six seconds into the match. In the process Fernández qualified for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janiero.
“The most important win was the one against Porter, the paralympic and world silver medalist whose technique I studied closely in Havana to make this possible. Beating him made the gold all that more secure,” he told JIT.
“The strategy I followed with [Porter] was to prevent him from using his Ippon Seoi Nage technique, execute the kumis well and get him into positions that would make him uncomfortable. Then I applied my Oguchi Gari,” said Fernández, who is competing in the Games for the first time.
“The people of Cuba expect more of me… I dedicate this victory to my family, my mother and my daughter and I thank Fidel, Raúl and all the trainers and workers at the Cerro Pelado school for supporting us and making it possible for us to be here,” Fernández said.
Both Fernández and Jiménez competed in a round-robin elimination. The last round consisted of four apparently easy fights that ended before the five-minute regulation time.
“It shouldn’t be looked at [as easy] even though it may seem so. You have to get on the tatami to prove it. It’s just that my previous preparation got me in good shape,” said Fernández.
“To be here we have to give up a lot in terms of being away from our families, and even our health. In my case I suffer from progressive myopia, and run the risk of aggravating my condition because of all the physical exertion,” he explained. Fernández had been a wrestling coach before he took up judo in 2006 when there was a need for competitors at the national level.
“We committed to bringing the team forward. In spite of the judging, which has been awful, we could not fail. I was especially lacking confidence because I thought the third time is not necessarily the charm,” Fernández explained. He previously won judo gold medals in Rio 2007 and Guadalajara 2011.
“My people in Cuba, our main leaders, my wife who is involved in another competition with my children, and my town of La Sierpre are all present here,” he said with emotion.
Fellow gold medalist Yangaliny Jiménez defeated Venezuelan William Montero (54 seconds), Robert Anderson (1:19 minutes) of the U.S., Brazilian William Silva (1:50 minutes) and Steven Mulhern (18 seconds) also of the U.S.
At the end of August 14 Brazil led in judo with a total of 2 gold, 2 silver and 3 bronze, followed by Cuba (2-2-1) and Mexico (2-0-0).