An Interview with Jose Humberto Rodriguez.

By Carlos Garcia.

            Sagua La Grande was the city in central Cuba that saw Jose Humberto Rodriguez —today’s President of the Olympic Judo American Federation— to take his first steps as human being and athlete. Since early in his life, Jose Humberto was always related with sports; Judo, Succer, or Tracks and Field. Residing in New Jersey, very young still, he won championships of that last sport for the City and the County. And he wasn’t just interested in the competitive side of sports: an organizational matter of games is an all times present quality of his character.

            We did learn that, fresh the triumph of Cuban revolution; the rebels took a sport center as their base. Coinciding, around those days the schools of the area had programmed a soccer encounter for which they didn’t have the goal nets, existent at the rebel’s sport center improvised base. Jose, just ten years old, took some money from his grandfather, a horse-wagon, and went to negotiate the goals he’d won for the games. “I have been always interested in the organizational side”, he told us.

            “My athletic career ended too soon:. Finishing High School, and with the dead of his father, Jose determined it was time to get married and to build a family. University studies had to be completed in three years, for his first son was on the way. About the University, he said was a real school for his development as human being. “Since High School my academic performance was poor; I was very good at sports, but not in classes”. His trainer warned him —even when facing the chance of losing a good athlete— he had to perform better in class or else. That way, Jose learned to be serious. “The situation saved my life, professionally and personal:. Once graduated, decided to begin his labor as trainer, and started to build very good teams. At Fort Lauderdale, putted together the female and male soccer teams working for St. Thomas Aquina High School, well known center for their sports performance.”…but was really with Field and Tracks we had enormous success…” Of the program developed at St. Thomas, came out Olympic quality figures for United States. After this period, he developed the largest Field and Tracks team of the world: the Mazda Track Club. “…we had figures like Evelyn Ashford, the best runner of that time for 100 and 200 meters; Willy Banks, Triple Jump champion of the world; Renaldo Nehemiah, ex-champion of the world for 11o meters with obstacles, and some others…”

            In 2005, the Olympic Committee of Unites States realized that the sport of Judo was in need of changes and a good pushing engine, and offered Jose Humberto the position as Director of the Judo Federation. All for good, because our athletes began to win if not for the first time, at least in a long time, medals and international honored places. We asked him about his expectations for the 2012 Olympics, and he responded fast and effortlessly: “United States had never won a gold medal, but this time we have lots of hope to bring home the first one… female athletes are particularly strong. In three weeks we are leaving for the Pan-Americans in Guadalajara, and it will be good to note for example, the case of Angelica Delgado, Cuban descendant. The Cuban team has always been one of our biggest fears but now, let’s see what will happen when Angelica faces her own roots. She’s got a lot to win…”

            For neophytes, for the particular case of Judo, to win just two medals will represent for us to be in fourth or fifth place meaning, among the best in the world. While Field and Track disputes over 108 medals, Judo do it over 8 places only. And it is very interesting that we count with the same expectations for the Para-Olympics, where Jose Humberto hopes to harvest at least, three medals.

            “We are strong and I have faith. I have faith in our athletes as well as I have faith in our trainers, all of them had been Olympic medalists and have a lot of experience to share”.

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