By Orge Castellano
RIO DE JANEIRO – Despite a strong culture of mixed martial arts and increasing growth across the nation, Judo is not a popular sport in the U.S. There aren’t many famous judokas, whereas in Eastern Europe and Asia, athletes are well-praised and considered heroes for the difficulty of the sport.
Therefore, something magical happens when two divisions of U.S. athletes perform significantly well at the Paralympics. In the men´s 90-kg event, Dartanyan Crockett from Cleveland crushed rival and Great Britain’s medal-hopeful and 2012 Paralympic silver medalist Samuel Ingram. Crockett won with a difference of two yukos.
The match lasted a full five minutes at the Carioca 3 arena in front of a spry crowd. Crockett competed in the visually impaired category B3. He was born with Leber’s disease, which causes acute visual loss. Crockett has been severely near-sighted his entire life. He learned the hard way that action and discipline are required to overcome something, and through the years, he’s gotten tougher and stronger.
“People told me I couldn’t do a lot of things because of my vision,” he said. “I believe there is nothing I can’t achieve. Failure only comes if you let it,” he told goodsportstories.com back in 2009.
It was not an easy win for him. He came through two repechage bouts with competitors from Uzbekistan and Georgia. In the end, he conquered with a bronze medal and the second Paralympic title of his career. In tears when his coach Eddie Liddie hugged him, the two relished the breathtaking moment.
On the women’s side, Cristella Garcia from Santa Fe, New Mexico, overtook Brazil’s favorite Silva de Almeida Deanne with a Yoko-shiho-gatame* technique in the 70-kg division belonging to the B1 category. She bested her competitor and secured her first bronze medal in the Paralympic games.
“I’m feeling pretty amazing right now; I don´t think there’s a cooler feeling as getting a medal” said the judoka.
When asked about the challenge of competing against a local contender, she said,“She’s definitely a really strong competitor; she had the crowd behind her, but I really believed that I was going to win this match so I never stopped trying.
“I loved the energy of the crowd; it was a death match for me I just had fun with it,” Garcia added.
On her next endeavors: “I’m pretty optimistic about the future. I told my coach that I was going to get the Agitos tattooed after tonight’s win.”
Both Athletes train with the same couches Eddie Liddie and Scott Moore.