Tae kwon do kids could be as big as sprinters - Barrows
Ainsley Walters, Gleaner Writer
JAMAICA's junior fighters' success at home during the August 26-30 International Taekwon-do Federation World Cup has been described by Jamaica Taekwon-Do Association President Arthur Barrows as a sign that the island could one day be as internationally dominant in martial arts as it is in sprinting.
Of the 46 medals won at the World Cup, held at Montego Bay's Convention Centre, Jamaica's high-school students won 12 gold, three silver and three bronze.
Overall, Jamaica won 17 gold, 14 silver and 15 bronze medals. Among the medals won by the island was the senior male black belt team fighting gold, one of the most sought-after titles at the tournament.
first black belt gold
Though none of Jamaica's adult black belts won an individual title, 17-year-old junior black belt Delano Francis of Excelsior High School beat Puerto Rico's Gustavo Lipezker on centre stage to claim Jamaica's first black belt gold medal of the World Cup.
Merl Grove High School's Subrina Richards fell just short of snatching Jamaica's second gold in the junior black belt lightweight division, claiming silver after leading her Argentine rival on gala night.
"This is historic not only from a Jamaican point of view, but also internationally," Barrows pointed out. "Remember, this was the World Cup, featuring fighters from the United States, Canada, Argentina, Colombia, New Zealand, Europe, and Asia as well ... . Jamaica did not even have the biggest contingent, though at home.
"For our junior fighters to have done so well, winning individual sparring and patterns, it speaks to the work being done at the club level, boys' high school league and international exposure they have been getting at the United States Open," Barrows said.
"Very soon, when we make mention of Kenneth Edwards, it won't be 'Kenneth Edwards, Jamaica's lone martial arts Olympian', it will be 'Jamaica's first tae kwon do Olympian'," he added.
Jamaica's team of Tahj Hewitt (Jamaica College), Christopher Campbell (Calabar), Paz Rodriquez, Maurice Hibbert (Kingston College) and Damani Gayle (St George's College) won gold in the boys' 15-17 team sparring, emulating the senior black belts.
Jamaica's 15-17 boys also dominated the individual junior coloured-belt divisions, -50 and +68kg categories with clean sweeps.
They swept the -50 category as Hewitt won gold ahead of Campbell and Akeem Bancroft. In the +68 division, Wolmer's Deandre Leith won gold ahead of Cornwall College's David Hall Jr and David Watkin.
Rodriquez won gold in the -56 category, beating England's Edward Weston. Joshane Thompson claimed bronze after being eliminated by Weston in semi-final action.
"We also had 18-year-old St George's student, now at Hydel, Akino Lindsay, who won gold in the 18-35, -85kg, coloured-belt sparring, fighting adults," Barrows reminded.
Jamaica's martial arts future
"Alexia Webb, she won gold in the 15-17, -50kg, coloured-belt sparring, so the likes of Sheckema Cunningham, Subrina Richards and Ashieka Dyer will soon have another female black belt to contend with," he added.
Jamaica's martial arts future seems, indeed, to be in good stead, as even below the 15-17 ranks, the country's juniors shone during the world Cup.
Jamaica College's 14-year-old, Chavaughn Wilkins, had emerged with the island's first medal, gold, defeating Argentina's Fernando Grababi 3-1 in the 12-14 coloured-belt, -60kg weight category.
Mandeville Taekwon-Do's Jashiah McLean won the 12-14 coloured belt division, emerging victorious in the -52.0 kg weight category.
In addition, 12-14 teams from Mandeville taekwon-Do won gold in the coloured belt, 12-14 boys' team sparring and team patterns. Mandeville's girls claimed silver in the coloured-belt, 12-14, team sparring.