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Jamaican fighters sweep Philadelphia

Published:Friday | May 25, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Ainsley Walters, Gleaner Writer

JAMAICA's combined martial arts team members dominated the Philadelphia Taekwondo Inter-national at the weekend, as Nicholas Dussard won black belt lightweight gold and the McKay Lady Knights got off to a flying start in their first international tournament of the year by sweeping the female division.

Dussard defeated the United States' Muhammad Ali in the lightweight final to defend his title at the event. It was Dussard's second gold of the year, following his victory in the first leg of the ITF USA Connecticut Open Unity Champs in March.

Hard fight for medals

Veteran Jason McKay won black belt bronze after losing to Jose Cueso in semi-final action. The fight was ruled a draw, a bloody encounter which left the significantly shorter veteran with a broken nose.

However, he said he was satisfied with his first outing of the year and felt real good.

Meanwhile, Dussard, who is aiming at four international gold medals this season which, he said, he is dedicating to Jamaica's 50th year of independence, is confident he will go all the way.

Female team captain Sheckema Cunningham won the black belt lightweight by stopping Carol Hodges in semi-final action before beating teammate Danielle Chang in the final.

"I feel satisfied and the next stop is the US Open," said Cunningham, who won a historic bronze medal in sparring at last year's International Taekwondo Federation World Championships in Wellington, New Zealand.

Chang, who took silver after defeating teammate Subrina Richards in the semi-finals, said she will be better as the year progresses.

"It was my first international of the year and I will get better as the long season continues. I feel good about my performance," she said.

Convent of Mercy Alpha Academy student Richards won the junior red belt division before claiming bronze in the adult black belt. The 15-year-old defeated Kim Szymanski before losing to teammate Chang.

"I feel good but ran out of steam after the first division," she said.

The combined team's next big encounter will be the United States Open in July.