Ja girls dominate at Caribbean Gold Cup
CAPTAIN Sheckema Cunningham yesterday dedicated the female combined martial arts team's first Caribbean Gold Cup title to Jamaica after stopping a strong Puerto Rico side 8-3 in the final at the International Sports Karate Association United States Open in Orlando, Florida.
The girls were winning the Gold Cup for the first time in four tries after twice being beaten by Puerto Rico and a strong German team two years ago.
"Coach had a game plan. We discussed it at lunch and it came out just right. This was what we wanted to get out of the way. The team fight was for the country and to redeem ourselves after three tries. Tomorrow the individuals begin with no such pressure. It's just for us to go out and execute," said the Jamaican captain.
The girls opened against Dominican Republic in the three-team contest and were never pressed, cruising to an easy 12-0 win, failing to drop a point in three bouts.
Subrina Richards, originally booked for a Night of Champions showdown against Argentina's Camila Canut, was a late inclusion, suiting up after officials brought out the rule book, which stipulated each match should include two middleweights and a microweight.
Jamaica had originally intended to field two microweights - Cunningham and Marissa Jones - with Tashauna Grannum as the lone middleweight.
The rule, Cunnigham said, actually worked out in Jamaica's favour in a tactical team match.
"Tashauna being on the team made it stronger in terms of height and size. The Dominican Republic's microweight being short also made it easier for Marissa, who had someone her size for once," she pointed out.
Richards was first on the mat against Wendy Hernandez and soon had her rival's head snapping back with sharp jabs in a one-sided affair in which the Dominican Republic fighter was twice floored by punches.
The microweight follow-up was over in a flash, two sidekicks from Cunningham to Selena Martinez' mid-riff and the Dominican Republic fighter was in tears, crying 'no mas', forcing her coach to pull her.
Next up was busy Tashauna Grannum, sent in against thick-set Evelyn Gomez, who was outmaneuvered by the Jamaican, who quickly found her range with high kicks, one of which was followed by a punch, which left her rival sprawled.
Jamaica next faced Puerto Rico and prevailed 7-3 in what would be the first of two meetings. Richards was again out first and appeared a bit slow to react against Zwimda Ortiz, who actually was awarded on a draw by one of the judges in a 3-0 win for the Jamaican.
Grannum was always on the back foot against a chasing and experienced-looking Nancy Ortiz, who won 3-0 to level the score and keep the Puerto Ricans in the fight to reach the final.
However, that quickly changed when Marissa Jones faced Selena Riviera in a spirited microweight match-up, which she punctuated with a sidekick that had her rival calling time out and an eventual 4-0 win to Jamaica, who advanced to the final, awaiting the outcome of Puerto Rico against the Dominican Republic.
Puerto Rico easily put away the Dominican Republic for a second and decisive match with Jamaica, who won 8-3. Cunningham outclassed Riviera 4-0 and Richards came out storming with a flurry of punches against Nancy Ortiz, eventually winning 3-0, effectively handing Jamaica victory even though Grannum lost the final bout 1-3 to Zwimda Ortiz.