As we arrived at the last destination on the Pan American tour, team CJC revved up the engines and put on a real finale! The team gained not only medals but crucial points towards the 2016 Olympic Games.
On the first day of the tournament, CJC head coach, Luke Preston had a hectic day as he was running across three tatamis to support the team. Danny Williams and Szandra Szogedi both had a tough battle in the first round and unfortunately both had to bow out the tournament before the quarter-finals.
Ashley McKenzie took the lead in the -60kg category after winning first against Martin Bustamante (ARG) then Youssef Youssef (CAN), both times by a stunning Ippon throw. The challenge of the semi-final was against Brazilian, Diego Santos, where McKenzie used his tactical skills to overcome his opponent. In the final, Lenin Preciado (ECU) was waiting for the CJC warrior. It was expected to be a tough contest against the skillful Ecuadorian, but McKenzie soon stunned him for a waza-ari, shortly after Preciado answered with a yuko score. McKenzie was still in a lead until the last 40 seconds when his opponent executed an Ippon worthy ouchi-gari attack. The first silver medal was earned there and then.
The second silver medal was earned in the -66kg category where two of the CJC fighters ended up meeting in the semi-finals. Both players, Nathon Burns and Aaron Turner started off with a very promising performance to reach the semis where they had to face each other. A single shido difference forced Turner to rush after a score in the dying seconds and his attack was used by his team mate, Burns to execute an osei-komi waza and make his way to the final. That wasn’t the end there for Turner though. The bronze medal contest was intense, Turner found himself on the end of an accidental punch by his opponent Wander Mateo (DOM) which resulted in him receiving medical three times. It was important not to require a fourth time as this would have resulted in disqualification. Heavily taped around his head, Turner continued his battle and threw the Dominican judoka for waza-ari before following it up with a yuko. Turner picked up three penalties before the time was up, but the waza-ari score was enough to earn him the bronze medal. In the final, Nathon had his re-match from the previous weekend against Canadian, Antonie Bouchard. The CJC fighter started off strong and put pressure on his opponent. A misread action by the referee resulted in Bouchard earning a waza-ari on his side. Burns strived for a score but the time ran out, another well deserve silver medal in the bag.
Golden moments were witnessed on the second day of the tournament. Firstly, Frazer Chamberlain started off the day in the -90kg category, winning by yuko against Giovanni Carollo (ITA), giving no chance to his next opponent, Alexis Duarte (ARG), Chamberlain was soon in the semis facing Thomas Capra (USA). Two shido penalties put the American player under pressure and a slight error by Capra allowed the CJC player to stun for Ippon. On paper the final contest was going to be a big ask for Chamberlain. However Chamberlain flew for gold as he managed to apply a flying armlock on the Grand Slam bronze medallist, Romain Buffet (FRA), to take the victory.
A weight class below, in the -81kg category, Owen Livesey confidently defeated his opponents in the first two rounds. In the semi-final against Adrian Lorenzo Nacimento (ESP) Livesey began to be challenged. Even though the contest went in to golden score, Livesey looked dominant, a minute into extra time he threw for a yuko to see himself in to the final. Rafael Macedo (BRA) was the last task of the day and just like his team mate, Livesey finished the contest within the first minute by a stunning Ippon counter attack. The second gold medal was in the CJC pocket with extra points on the way to Rio.
Head coach, Luke Preston concluded the tour: “I am very pleased with the performance of the athletes over the three week tour. To sustain a high level over a number of tournaments is very difficult but the players rose to the challenge. Many medals and valuable Olympic qualification points were won. The team spirit was also excellent and after a short period of recovery the players will build again for the next Olympic qualifiers.”
During the period of the three weeks, team CJC earned the total number of 3 gold, 2 silver, 4 bronze and two fifths places.