Ainsley Walters, Sunday Gleaner Writer
A quartet of Jamaicans, led by world silver and Pan Am gold medallist, Nicholas Dussard, will take the mat at the annual International Taekwon-do Federation's (ITF) New York Open, in Queens, September 29.
As Jamaica's top martial artists fine-tune preparations for the October 23-28 ITF World Champs in Benidorm, Spain, the New York Open is among two North American stops en route to Europe.
Veteran Jason McKay, Phillip McDowell and Ashieka Dyer join Dussard at the New York Open.
McDowell will be making his second international appearance of the year whereas Dyer will be hunting her fourth gold medal of the season, after a Florida Gator Nationals title and historic double at July's United States Open in Orlando.
Jamaica has had mixed fortunes in Queens with the likes of Dussard, Olympian Kenneth Edwards and Oshane Murray mining black belt gold medals after an earlier era of drought.
Dussard is expected to start as favourite whereas McKay, McDowell and Dyer could be hard pressed to take home gold.
ITF Pan Am gold medallist Dussard is one of Jamaica's most prominent faces on the New York circuit and has beaten most Tri-State fighters in his lightweight category.
The heir apparent to the captaincy of Jamaica's combined martial arts team said he would be disappointed were he not to top all comers in Queens, ahead of the tougher World Champs in Spain.
The in-form Dyer is a strong International Sports Karate Association (ISKA) combatant. Her three gold medals this year were won at North American ISKA tournaments.
However, the New York Open is an ITF event and Dyer's coach, McKay, said things could be tougher for the 19-year-old in Queens.
"She has mined gold in New York before and seems to be having a great year in ISKA competitions," McKay pointed out.
"However, this is ITF, a different type of fight. She was left off the squad for Spain, next month, as she had failed to impress at the ITF World Cup in Brighton, England, last year, which was largely used to determine the squad for Spain."Dyer's form from Brighton had also cost her a spot on the female combined team at the Gold Cup in Orlando, where Subrina Richards performed creditably and landed a spot in Spain.
"Only persons who demonstrated the strong possibility of medalling in ITF competitions were shortlisted for Spain," McKay added.