Amarilis Savon Path of a Champion

June 05, 2013, 2:33 p.m. (ET)

USA Judo will host the Grand Prix Miami June 15 and 16 at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa. This is the first time this event has been held in the United States. Athletes will acumulate valuable international ranking points. Medalists will share a purse worth a total of $100,000. 

In Baltony, a small town in the province of Santiago de Cuba, a restless girl runs through the streets. Attracted to sports, she is experienced in swimming and athletics, but that was not to be her way. Fate had another future in mind. This girl was a warrior, born to win, with everything she needed to be a champion, and that was the vision of a judo instructor who would become the compass that guided Amarilis Savon on her ultimate path..

... "When I practiced swimming and athletics, there was no doubt that I liked to use my strength, which was the ‘warrior,’ and my biggest wish was always to win. My teachers encouraged me and convinced me that I had the (mental and physical) condition for judo, and then I determined my first goal, to reach Cuban National Team "...

Amarilis’ potential no longer fit in Baltony, where she trained on a small dojo with sawdust shavings on a canvas floor.

At the international level her record includes a bronze medal in the 48 kg division in Chiba, Japan, in 1995, a silver medal at the Paris World Championships in 1997 and a gold medal at the World Championships in Birmingham in 1999 in the 52 kg division.

The results she obtained in the school competitions in the region – at a mere 13 years old - served as more proof that she would be selected for a high school performance center in Santiago de Cuba. There, although the conditions still were not the best, they exceeded those in Baltony, in addition to having other competitors who assisted in her preparation. It was the beginning of a long, but fast, path to sports mastery.

... "When competing in the school divisions in Santiago de Cuba, I received a very good technical base. Then when I went to the junior level at the National Training Center, there was more skills development at the technical level … “

The work of judo in Santiago de Cuba was characterized by careful planning of each stage of child development, enabling judokas to emerge there precisely, at a high technical level.

... "At 18, I was promoted to the National Team. I was a girl with no experience, where it was ‘every man for himself.’ No one was going to stop to teach me but I learned from the techniques of Professor Ronaldo Veitía all the new and updated strategies and fighting tactics. I also learned that with good discipline and perseverance it is possible to reach and remain for a long time at the top of your sports career.”

Among her major achievements are gold medals at the Pan American Games in Mar del Plata in 1995 and Winnipeg in 1999 in the 48 kg. division, and gold in the Pan American Games in Santo Domingo in 2003.

In the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and in 1996 in Atlanta, Amarilis was on the pódium for bronze in the 48 kg división. At the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, she also took a bronze medal.

The first national medal I secured was in Villa Clara, a province in central Cuba, where there were few scholastic games. I received a second place. In international events, I won my first medal in 1992 in the City of Paris Tournament with a bronze – which became for me an open door, because it is a very difficult tournament, it was the way to predict who might be on the podium at Barcelona Olympic Games. The Olympic medal was a dream come true for me. "

Amarilis is currently coach of Club Atlanta Judo Midtown, in the city of the same name, which provides expertise in the formation of the next generation of judokas. She will have the privilege of being the first woman to participate as the leader of a training camp held right after the Grand Prix Miami, where she will serve another of her goals, providing her experience to the younger generation, who are looking, as she did, for an Olympic medal.

By Fausto Albizua - USA Judo

Translated by Ernest Pund - USA Judo