Ja female fighters claim silver at US Open Gold Cup
CAPTAIN Sheckema Cunningham on Thursday anchored Jamaica's female combined martial arts team to silver at the International Sports Karate Association's Intercontinental Courtleigh Hotel & Suites Gold Cup at the US Open in Orlando, Florida.
Competing in her first international for the year, Cunningham gave the team a flying start against Chile's Tonia Lesty and wiped out her Japanese rival as Jamaica swept their opening contests in the three-woman sparring match.
Cunningham returned to put on a captain's display in the final against favourites Germany, pulling Jamaica 1-1 after Subrina Richards lost the opening bout to the skilful Andrea Sinner.
Back-to-form Tashauna Grannum, who had impressed against Chile's Estefenia Johnson and Japan in her opening matches, led Michelle Saciuk before losing her contact lenses. The Jamaican decided to continue without her eyewear, which swung the tide in what turned out to be a close match.
Saciuk rallied to prevail 2-0, handing Germany gold as one judge ruled in favour of Grannum, another gave a draw and two for her rival.
Female team coach Jason McKay said he was extremely proud of the girls, especially Cunningham, considering she had been out of action for months.
"Sheckema showed that she was on her best form, the best I have seen her in years. She won three straight fights to guide Jamaica to silver," he pointed out.
"Jamaica came in ranked fourth and silenced everyone by beating Chile, easily getting past Japan and almost pulled it off against a very good German team.
"It was a close match. Hey, we thought Tash won, but we're not in the corners lifting the flags. We did enough to win and will be back next year," he added.
Meanwhile, the bulk of Jamaica's 60-man contingent started competing yesterday afternoon with the combined martial arts team facing South Africa in a three-man continuous sparring match.
The combined team line-up included Kingston Taekwon-Do's Nicholas Dusard, Jamaica Seido's Greagon Taylor and Ningen Karate's Scott Wright.
Dusard will also represent Jamaica in tonight's International Taekwon-Do Federation bout, taking on his nemesis, United States world champion, Julio Carlos, in an ESPN3 televised match 6:30-7 p.m. Jamaica time.