Jamaica has the best team in the world — Edwards
ROSE HALL, St James — Without fear of contradiction, Jamaica's International Tae kwon do Federation's (ITF) men's black belt heavyweight individual bronze medallist Kenneth Edwards put on record what everyone else was thinking.
"Jamaica has the best team in the world and we proved it today," Edwards said after the Jamaican team clinched a 10-8 win over a powerful Argentina team to win the senior men's black belt team sparring gold medal at the Fifth World Cup held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall on the weekend.
It was the perfect end to the four-day event as Jamaican fighters from three clubs combined for 46 medals — 17 gold, 14 silver and 15 bronze. The clubs were Mandeville, Jamaica Taekwon-do Centre and Ultimate and Red Dragons, two clubs that combined for the event.
Unlike the World Championships that is contested by national teams with one fighter per weight class, the World Cup is open to clubs/schools from member countries of the ITF.
Team captain Nicholas Dusard shook off a painful shoulder injury that he will do surgery on soon to contribute to the team effort, participating in two of the three fights. He said while he was still in pain, "The team needed me today and whenever the team needs me I will stand up and make it count."
Under the team format, five fighters will contest a two-minute bout, with the points from each bout accumulated towards the team total. The team that loses the coin toss must send out their selected fighter first, giving the other team the option of which fighter to use.
On Saturday, after a first- round bye, the Jamaican team beat another club from Argentina, then in the semi-finals, a Canadian team stacked with fighters who had knocked a number of Jamaicans out of the individual events on Friday.
All eyes were focused on the final with all the other events already completed, the fighters commanded the main stage, one elevated about four feet off the floor.
Edwards got Jamaica off to a good start, winning his third straight match by a 4-0 margin before Scott Wright drew 2-2 in his fight, coming back from 0-4 down early as Jamaica jumped into a solid lead.
Dusard then added another 4-0 win with a brilliant performance and with victory in sight, the large crowd on hand roared to the rafters.
It was left up to Adrian Moore and Ackeem Lawrence to avoid 4-0 losses, which both did as the home team clinched the historic win.
A confident Edwards said the team victory was redemption after his loss in the semi-finals of the individual event on Friday. "I know I came here to take the gold, but it did not go as expected and I got a bronze. Today (Saturday) I redeemed myself."
The Olympian said his loss to the Canadian Aziz Abdellahi on Friday "was a fluke. I am the best and I had to prove that today. I just had to prove that today, so when Aziz came in, it had to be a 4-0 or nothing, had to be a 4-0, I was very happy for that".
Commenting on his three 4-0 margins, the maximum per fight, Edwards said: "As my captain said, it's good when you have your team behind you to push you that much more. I was pushed today, the guys were relying on me and I delivered."
Fighting for the team, he also said, gave them an extra lift despite personal setbacks. "Half of the team was injured. My left knee was injured, Scott had an injury and Nicholas also had a shoulder problem, but when you have the team behind you pushing you it gives you so much more drive, everybody depending on each other, everybody supporting each other, it really does make a difference."
Dusard agreed with Edwards when he told the Jamaica Observer, "The team format means a lot, you will see from the combined team that we are a really strong team when we perform together". He added: "Just the fact that everybody is behind you and cheering for you and that we are close to the ringside and there is more passion, unlike the individual event when you are fighting for yourself, in team competition if you slip there is someone to pick you up and you know people are counting on you, it's an added responsibility and always good for teamwork."
After his injured shoulder contributed to his exit at the quarter-final round in his individual event, Dusard said he was not completely convinced that the team gold made up for not winning a second one.
"I don't know if it makes up (for the loss), but it gives me a sense of pride. (Friday) I was injured and hurting, but this (team gold) tops off a better World Cup, it would have been awesome to win double gold."