National Paralympic Junior Training Camp Offers a Glimpse into the Future

Chicago: May 4-5, 2013 — Menomonee Judo Club – USA Judo Paralympic National Training Site hosted the second annual National Paralympic Judo Junior Judo Camp this past weekend in Chicago.The event, a collaborative effort between USA Judo and Menomonee Judo, is a way to help identify and inspire promising young athletes with visual impairments who have the potential to represent the United States in the Paralympic Games.

The first camp, held last May, was attended by both Eddie Liddie, USA Judo Director of Athlete Performance, 1984 Olympic Bronze Medalist and Marc Vink ( Liberty Bell Judo Club, Philadelphia, PA ) 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games Judo Team Leader. This year, Vink was joined at the camp by 2012 Paralympic Games Judo Silver Medalist, Myles Porter ( Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, CO ). For Porter, it was his second trip to visit Chicago’s Paralympic Judo programs in the last six months. He was previously in Chicago back in November as an ambassador for USA Judo.

Head instructor of the Menomonee Judo Club – USA Judo Paralympic National Training Site, Brett Wolf, was extremely pleased with the way the camp turned out. ” We have been looking forward to this camp for six months. Our up and coming players with visual impairment were able to show what we’ve been working on at the dojo. “, said Wolf. All of the camp participants appreciated the chance to receive individual attention from both Porter and Vink. Nadia Montanez, 15, has now attended both camps. ” It was really cool to get to work with Myles and Marc again. They inspire me to try and qualify for the Paralympic Games. “, explained an excited Montanez.

Myles Porter left Chicago impressed by what he witnessed. ” It was a really good experience. I can tell how much the players have improved just since I was here in November. I’m excited about the direction that Paralympic Judo is headed here in the U.S. It’s an honor to be a role model to these up and coming players. ” said Porter.
USA Judo is committed to developing Paralympic Judo starting at the grass roots level.

Menomonee Judo which runs Paralympic programs through the public schools, park district and boys and girls clubs, is model for other dojos.  ” We have between 40 – 50 athletes with visual impairment doing Judo with us each and every week. We have an additional 100 or so athletes with other physical and intellectual disabilities. I can’t thank USA Judo, World Sport Chicago and the Chicago Park District enough for their continued support. “, explained Sensei Wolf.

A number of the camp participants are in serious training to represent the United States at the IBSA World Youth and Student Championships this July in Colorado Springs. The tournament is the under 21 World Championships for Judoka with visual impairment. These athletes hope to use the tournament as a springboard towards qualifying for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Sara Luna, 15, one of the top young female Paralympic Judo players in the United States is enjoying every step of the journey. ” I love doing Judo ! Whether it’s a tournament or just practice, I look forward to getting on the mat. “, proclaimed an excited Luna. Both Sara and Gaia Iaccarino recently received $2,500 grants for training and traveling from Game On !, a foundation that empowers young girls through participation in sports. Part of this money will go towards sending Sara and Gaia to Colorado. Gaia will be representing the United States at the Para Pan American Judo Championships that same weekend.

With the recent success of both Myles Porter and 2012 Paralympic Games Bronze Medalist, Dartanyon Crockett ( Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, CO ), Paralympic Judo is definitely on the rise here in the United States.

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