There were smiles and joy in the arena of the Junior World Championships Odivelas 2023, for the American team. The performance of Jack Yonezuka (USA), silver medallist on the second day of competition, in -73 kg, had a lot to do with it. Eddie Liddie and Jhonny Prado, who are leading the US team here in Portugal, 24 hours after Jack's medal, could already analyse his result and the consequences of it.
Jhonny Prado and Eddie Liddie

"First of all we have a strong sense of pride. Jack was a bronze medallist last year in Guayaquil and now he's a silver medallist at the junior worlds. Of course we would have preferred the gold but honestly it's already an amazing feat. This result brings us a lot of hope towards Los Angeles 2028. This is the main idea behind everything we do now, to build a strong team. Jack is definitely the leader of that team.

Vusal Galandarzade (AZE) and Jack Yonezuka (USA) after the final

He is really a great ,kid from New Jersey, living, walking and breathing judo. Jack comes from a traditional judo family background. His dad was an Olympian and as a national coach shone a spotlight on champions such as Mike Swain, world champion (Essen 1987) and Olympic bronze medallist (Seoul 1988). His grandfather was the captain of his college team back in Japan, so he knows judo and he just thinks about it all the time. If he's not on the tatami, he’s watching judo videos and then going to the gym to get fitter.

He's a good leader for the rest of the squad. We can feel that in his wake judo is getting back on track in the US and that is excellent when we think about the next Olympic Games after Paris 2024. We are still working hard on the women's team and soon we will have a full group of young judoka with great potential. We are trying to do things like the European countries, to build with a vision for the future. Jack's medal will definitely help us to reach our goals.

Jack and his dad walking to the tatami

We had a recent increase in funding and we are dedicating all our energy to offering greater opportunities to our athletes so they can participate in competitions and training camps. There is no secret in judo. You need to train among the best and compete with the best.

We really hope to keep going and developing. Our objective is to have a strong and contending team in Los Angeles. No-one can say who will win the medals but we want to be in a position to step on to the podium."

There is no doubt that Jack Yonezuka's silver medal in Portugal will inspire more judoka to get on to the US judo train. The road is still long but time will fly, that's for sure. As we write this article, Jack is already on his way back home and soon he will be training again to keep performing now exclusively at the senior level: objective LA 2028.

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