A few days before the beginning of the World Judo Championships in Russia, we remember the Guantanamo Driulys González Morales, the best judoka of the 20th century in America, including her results like her three world titles.
With just 16 years of age this legendary athlete reached the national team and for more than twenty years she remained on the tatami with multiple wins in the national and international arena.
If speaking of world championships the name of Driulis Gonzalez is indispensable, with gold medals in Chiba 1995, Birmingham 1999 and Rio de Janeiro 2007, while winning silver in Osaka 1997 and 2003 and bronze in Hamilton 1993 as well as el Cairo, 2005.
She was only 19 years in 1992 and was already in the list of the 57 kg athletes to partake at the Olympic tournament in Barcelona.
That same year the judoka participated for the first time in international competitions so thinking of a medal was a chimera. However, the girl from Guantanamo, the easternmost of the Cuban provinces, was dodging obstacles and did not stop until wining a place on the podium at the 25th Olympic Games.
Her bronze medal then surprised the world of the tatami, but she was not surprised: “I never lost confidence, I knew I could,” she said on her return to the country.”
That was the prelude to what would be a real feat, and an impressive guarantee in the history of Cuban and universal judo.
Rodriguez Morales of the world elite is the winner of the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, silver at Sydney 2000 and bronze in Barcelona 1992 and Athens 2004.
In 1995 the Guantanamo athlete became world champion and the best athlete in Cuba, an award he shared with stellar runner Ana Fidelia Quirot proclaimed.
Then 1996 came, the year of the centenary of the Games, with venue in the U.S. city of Atlanta. Just two months before the event, he suffered a serious neck injury during her training, a situation which not only threatened her presence in the great meeting, but also compromised the use of her legs.
She kept training with a collar around her neck, and doing nothing with her legs she continued to prepare under the watchful eyes of her doctors.
The crucial moment came. She was warned not to overdo in each fight, be very careful in every move. Her coaches were confident that her level would enable to spare her efforts and so she did so as to return to Cuba with the gold medal as a reward for her value.
Many actions are to enliven the upcoming World Judo Tournament in Russia, where Cuba will be represented by important figures including the Guantanamo World Champion Maria Celia Laborde, the 2012 London Olympic Champion Idalys Ortiz, Dayaris Mestre, Yanet Bermoy and Yalennis Castillo, a generation of stars that have written pages in the Cuban sports history.