It was an eventful day in Rio, as five U.S. judo athletes stepped onto the tatami on the last day of judo competitions at the 2016 Paralympic Games. Dartanyon Crockett (90kg), Christella Garcia (+70kg), Ben Goodrich(+100kg), Sarah Chung(+70kg), and Myles Porter(100kg) all represented Team USA well.
Paralympic judo athletes are legally blind. There are three classes of visual impairment. All three visual classes compete together and are paired based on weight class. Classifications include: B1 athletes are totally blind, B2 athletes have the ability to see the shape of a hand in front of the face to 20/600, and B3 athletes have vision ranging from 20/600 to 20/200.
Dartanyon Crockett (B3) takes home BRONZE from the Paralympic Games. His first match against Boboev of Uzbekistan was a nail bitter. After received a shido and being thrown for a wazari early in the match, Crockett came back and threw his opponent for a yuko. Then with just nine-seconds left, Crockett threw Boboev for a wazari, winning the close match 11-10. In the Semi-finals, Crockett faced the 2015 World Champion, Gogotchuri of Georgia. With 3:29 seconds left on the clock, Crockett was pinned, qualifying him for the Bronze medal match. In his final match, Dartanyon faced Ingram from Great Britain (silver medalist from London). The match was close, but Crockett came out on top winning by two yukos.
"We both came into this match after losses, but I was able to channel my body and mind a little better than he did” explained Dartanyon Crockett. “It feels amazing winning another medal at my second Games. I have never beaten that opponent before, but it finally happened. Anything and everything can happen in judo, and it does."
Christella Garcia (B1) won a BRONZE medal in Rio. After Garcia’s initial loss to Kachan of Belarus by ippon by submission, she moved on to fight in the repechage round. Garcia defeated Nantharak of Thailand by an ippon in the repechage match, qualifying her to compete for Bronze. Garcia’s fight against Silva de Almeida of Brazil was a close one. Silva de Almeida took the early lead with a wazari, but Garcia capitalized on the Brazilian’s careless mistake and would win the match with an ippon by submission. A Paralympic woman has not won a medal since 2004.
“This is amazing. When I went to London, I was a Paralympic athlete, but now, here in Rio, I'm a Paralympic medalist! This bronze medal means everything. I don't think it's quite sunk in yet,” says Christella Garcia. “It took a lot of hard work and determination, and not just from me but from all the people who supported and pushed me and who have been here with me the entire way. I wish I could split the medal into tiny pieces to share it. The energy from the crowd was awesome. For me, it was all about imagery. I actually imagined that Brazil would be somewhere in my tournament today, and it was awesome to be in the medal match against them. I just pretended they were cheering for me, and in the end they were, so that was pretty incredible."
Ben Goodrich (B3) fought hard in Rio. In his first match against Tuledibaev from Uzbekistan, Ben was slightly overpowered being thrown for an ippon. Despite the initial loss, Goodrich qualified to compete in the repechage round where he faced Zakiyev of Azerbaijan. The former World Champion pinned Goodrich for an ippon.
"I wish I could have gone a little farther, but it was my first Paralympics experience. I'm newer to the sport, and I haven't been around as long as some of these other guys” Says Ben Goodrich. “It was a good experience, but I hope to rebut in four years. Tokyo 2020, for sure, but as an -100kg competitor."
Sarah Chung (B3) was a last minute qualifier for the Paralympic Games. She fought well in Rio. In Chung’s first fight against Silva de Almedia of Brazil, she came up short losing by an ippon. Chung still went on to qualify for the repechage round, where she fought against Tasbag of Turkey. Tasbag would score two wazari’s to end the match.
"I'm devastated,” said Sarah Chung. “But I won't let my circumstances get to me. I'm going to stay even more focused than I was the first time around. This is my first time competing at the Games, and I let fear get to me, so I'm going to work a little harder."
Myles Porter (B3) faced Alizadeh of Iran, the former Bronze medalist at the Worlds. This is their first time facing each other. Porter came out fighting hard, however Alizadeh scores a wazari and then an ippon for the win.
“Words cannot adequately express how proud I am of this team! Everyone worked so hard to get here and they all went out and gave 100%in every match,” said Head Coach Scott Moore. “I am thrilled for Dartanyon and Christella winning bronze! They both came back from tough losses, worked hard, and won tough matches to bring home some hardware!
Overall, it was a great performance by the U.S. Paralympic Team.