( Chicago, IL – June 27th ) It’s business as usual at the Wolf Judo Camp on a hot and humid June morning. There are two dozen Judo players of all ages and sizes working hard on a throwing drill. Many of these players are preparing to compete at major national and international Judo tournaments in the coming weeks. This group includes five players from Menomonee’s Paralympic Judo program. Paralympic Judo is tailored for people with various levels of visual impairment. Since Judo is a grappling sport, it lends itself well to participants with visual impairment.
In May 2012, USA Judo, the national governing body of Judo in the United States, named Menomonee Judo Club Paralympic National Training Site. On a given week, upwards of 40 – 50 players with visual impairment will train at Menomonee Judo. A huge factor in the growth of the Paralympic Judo program at Menomonee has been the partnerships the club has formed with World Sport Chicago ( the legacy wing of Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid ), the Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Schools and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. ” We would never have been able to grow our Paralympic Judo program this fast without the undying support of our partner organizations. They’ve given us a chance to build something very special. “, explained Brett Wolf, the head instructor at Menomonee Judo.
Next month marks another landmark for Menomonee Judo. These five athletes will be competing at three major international Paralympic Judo competitions taking place in Colorado Springs, CO. When you include coaches and family, the Menomonee delegation will exceed 10 people.
The Menomonee delegation includes:
1. Sara Luna – 16 years old, -63kg
2. Howard Wilson – 49 years old, -90kg
3. Gaia Iaccarino – 21 years old, +70kg
4. Nadia Montanez – 15 years old, -70kg
5. Cassaries Johnson – 19 years old, -66kg
Head Coach – Brett Wolf
Assistant Coach – Scott Goldstein
Assistant Coach – David Tanimura
Team Manager – Stephanie Tanimura
The tournaments they will be competing in are:
– The World Youth and Student Championships ( Under 21 World Championships ): Sara Luna, Nadia Montanez, Cassaries Johnson
– The Para Pan American Judo Championships: Howard Wilson, Gaia Iaccarino, Sara Luna
– The US International Judo Championships: Howard Wilson, Gaia Iaccarino, Sara Luna
The players are all training five hours a day, five days a week at camp. This is the 18th annual Judo camp that Sensei Wolf has run. For the last four years the camp has included Paralympic players. ” Our players with visual impairment have added a ton to our camp over the years. Their perseverance and work ethic is a motivating factor for all of our sighted and able bodied players. It’s not something that we even really discuss. It speaks for itself. “, said Wolf. These tournaments are the next natural step for the Menomonee players and programs.
The players will stay in Colorado for a three day training camp at the conclusion of the competitions. The camp will be held at the United States Olympic Training Center. The Menomonee athletes will have the opportunity to train alongside 2012 Paralympic Games medalists, Myles Porter ( Silver medal, 100kg ) and Dartanyon Crockett ( Bronze Medalist, 90kg ). ” I’m really excited about the opportunity to represent the United States in these tournaments. The training has been difficult, but I know that hard work pays off. “, said an excited Sara Luna. Sara was recently awarded the Sensei Dick Fukuyama Memorial Inspiration Award at the 12th Annual Wolf Judo Tournament for her two gold medal performance.
The trip to Colorado ( including room and board ) is completely self funded for the team members. Although Menomonee Judo has raised some money for their athletes, three foundations have played a huge role in making this dream become a reality. Game On! Sports Foundation, Variety of Illinois and the Jack and Goldie Wolfe Miller Fund all supported the Menomonee athletes with generous grants.” It’s going to be a great experience for all of us. The organizations that helped fund our way to Colorado are the best. I want to thank them by doing my best at the tournaments and making them proud. ” said team member, Nadia Montanez.
Competition begins on Saturday, July 13th with the World Youth and Student Championships and the Para Pan American Championships.
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