Expectations are running high both locally and abroad for what is being described as an all-rounded and technically gifted group of T&T’s top grapplers which will participate in its first ever major sambo tournament at the Pan-American Sambo Championships, to be held in Valle del Cauca, Colombia, from September 26-30. The recently established sambo national team, led by technical director and coach Rondel Benjamin will leave T&T for Colombia next Monday. This follows confirmation of its affiliated membership with the world governing body for the variations of wrestling styles—La Fédération Internationale des Luttes Associées (FILA). The T&T Combat Sports Association (T&TCSA) expressed interest in participation following the introduction to the 100-year-old art of sambo into its list of recognised disciplines, earlier this year.
T&T will be the first English-speaking Caribbean nation to participate at the prestigious event. Benjamin, a highly travelled and experienced trainer, leads a promising and exciting team comprising of a top selection of martial artists, who specialise in grappling.
Among them are the region’s fast rising star Dwayne Hinds (84kg), along with Martin Joseph (72kg), Joash Walkins (72kg), Keron Bourne (63kg) and Keron Diaz (78kg). President of the T&TCSA Jason Fraser will also travel to manage the team. Fraser, who is also president of the T&TCSA, coach Benjamin and executive director of the T&TCSA Roger Evelyn selected the five-member team, which still has the possibility to include two more martial artists, Krystal Williams (54kg) and Christopher George (100kg+).
Fraser expressed excitement at the prospect of the local athletes leaving a mark and medalling at their first ever sambo tournament.
“We have the best selection of athletes to represent us with an all-rounded team in their weight divisions. Despite the sport only recently being recognised in the country, the athletes have been in training and I believe the team has what it takes to do well.” “It is very important that we participate, and do so well as we look forward to the event in Russia in two months,” said Fraser. After hosting a workshop in May, head of development for Federation International Amateur de Sambo (FIAS) (the world governing body for Sambo), Dr Andrew Moshanov, described the team as the most promising in the Caribbean and one which has as high a chance of medalling at major Sambo events, as any other team in the region. So confident was he in the team’s ability, Moshanov extended an invitation for T&T to take part in the Russian Sambo Championship, later this year, which was subsequently accepted by the T&TCSA.
However, in the lead up to the Pan-American games, Fraser said that he had only one issue, which was the uncertainty of the participation of Williams and George, both of whom had not yet been secured the airfare to travel.