Impressive debut for female fighters
Ainsley Walters, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica's female combined martial arts team debuted in fine style last Saturday, winning their first encounter since being formed, beating Trinidad and Tobago at the Trinidad Tae Kwon Do Open in Port-of-Spain.
Selected six weeks ago with only a three-week camp as practice, the team was made up of two juniors, Tashauna Grannum and Danielle Chang, along with captain Sheckema Cunningham.
Despite not undergoing the normal six to 12 weeks combined team training camp due to the rush for the Trinidadian's fixture, the girls were in fine form after being selected by the combined team management and coached by the team's captain, Jason McKay.
First fighter on the mat
It was Grannum who was asked to bear a responsibility greater than her 15 years, being first fighter on the mat for Jamaica.
Grannum, the youngest Jamaican fighter but most experienced internationally, gave a great performance after starting slowly, outpointing her opponent to give Jamaica the lead.
A worried-looking McKay sent out 17-year-old Future Leaders karate fighter, Danielle Chang, to face a Trinidadian opponent far bigger than the 118lbs youngster.
Danielle, sister of former national champion, Tsitsi Chang, did not let fear stand in the way and was all over her heavyweight opponent despite being 30lbs lighter.
The big Trinidadian was unable to get her game off the hook, resulting in Chang stifling her ability to score and use her legs, thus earning a draw.
Chang's draw left Jamaica needing a draw from captain Cunningham to secure a win.
Despite the obvious pressure, Cunningham attacked with skill and composure to contain by far the most talented fighter in the Trinidadian line-up, earning ano-ther draw and victory for Jamaica.
"I couldn't sleep," Cun-ningham said after the team's victory. "I got up like five o' clock Saturday thinking about it. We heard the girls were big. They weren't all that big but they were no pushovers.
"When the match was over it was a good feeling for us. It was really good.
"It really wasn't as hard as we expected but it wasn't easy. Tashauna started it for us then Daniel and I took it from there," the team captain added.
"We are all looking for our next assignment. We also entered the individuals. I won patterns and sparring and Danielle was second in both."
An overjoyed McKay said he knew the task would have been tough.
"Despite the short time I had with them they applied all the techniques in addition to using the arsenal they had before. I am expecting great things from them," he said.
McKay, who founded the combined team, which has won three back-to-back World continental Team Fighting Championships, said the answer has now been provided for those clamouring for a female team.
"We had to have the right combination and, as I always said, all in good time, all in good time."