Comox judoka gains valuable experience in Cuba

Dakota Sanzana pictured with Cuba’s Odalis Revé, the 1992 Olympic judo champion.

Dakota Sanzana pictured with Cuba’s Odalis Revé, the 1992 Olympic judo champion.

Comox judoka Dakota Sanzana, 13, gained some valuable experience at a training camp in Cuba, under the tutelage of Cuba’s former national women’s team coach Ronaldo Veitia. Her trip included a training session at the Olympic Judo Training Facility with previous Olympic champions, world champions and future Olympians.

“This privilege is usually reserved for athletes 15 years and older,” said Dakota’s father, John Sanzana, who knows Veitia’s son. “What an amazing opportunity she was given to train with outstanding judokas. It’s an experience that she will not soon forget.”

On her way home, Dakota competed in Toronto at the Ontario Judo Open — one of Canada’s premiere tournaments, with competitors from around North America and overseas. She won a silver medal in the U16, -48 kg weight division.

Dakota has been selected to compete at the 2020 Elite 8 National Championships in the new year in Montreal. The U18-and-older tournament consists of the top eight Canadian athletes in each weight category who will vie for a national title. Dakota, a first-year U16 representing Team B.C., will compete as an early bloomer. The Judo Canada event runs from Jan. 6-12. It starts with a training camp and finishes with a tournament.

“It will be her first solo trip with mom and dad staying behind,” John said.

Dakota next competes at the Shiai Judo Tournament, Nov. 29-30 in Steveston.