2009 Program News

10/14/09: ICECP Judo Coaches Band Together to Help Their Colleague

Sweet SquadOne of ICECP’s purposes is to enhance international relations and create international cooperation through sport, and no one exemplifies that better than this year’s quartet of judo coaches.

They arrived here four short weeks ago as strangers, but the common ground they had from their passion for the sport of judo and their roles on the national level quickly brought them together.

When Ian Weithers (Barbados), Nabil Elalem (Libya), Igor Paskoski (Macedonia) and Tatenda Guta (Zimbabwe) spent two weeks in Florida for their apprenticeship, it solidified a bond within the group. They lived together, trained together and spent all their free time together.

During the apprenticeship, Weithers and Elalem, 5th and 6th DAN black belts, respectively, noticed something about Paskoski, a 1st DAN black belt.

“Through our interaction, it became clear that his level and his competencies far exceeded his belt,” Elalem said, after two weeks of watching and working with Paskoski in the dojo.

Upon further investigation, they learned that no exam had been performed for high level grades in Macedonian judo for some time. For that reason, Paskoski has remained at his current rank for the past 15 years.

An impressive competitive and coaching resume reinforced Elalem’s observations. As a competitor, Paskoski won 10 national titles (1992-98, 2000-2002), seven international tournament medals (including four gold) and was a member of the national team for eight years.

As a coach, he led the national Pioner’s (age 13) and Cadet (ages 15-16) teams from 2005-2008. Since then, he has taken over the head coaching position for the national senior team. He also leads judo team Mioki, which won national titles in 2005, 2006 and 2008, and is leading the national standings in 2009.

“We noticed his knowledge of the sport was much greater than his rank,” Weithers commented. He and Elalem have since reached out to help Paskoski earn the rank he obviously deserves.

In judo, there are three ways to increase rank. The first is called Batsugun; it involves a competition between the athlete being tested and five other judokas in his weight category at the level he is seeking to attain.

The second evaluation is through the accumulation of points from competitions over a period of time.

The third method is a technical evaluation of the judoka by higher-ranked colleagues. They must exceed the one being tested by two ranks to administer the certification.

Weithers and Elalem will use the third method to certify Paskoski and increase his rank to 3rd DAN black belt. This is based on their ranks and positions within their national federations, their residence together in Colorado Springs and Paskoski’s position as a national-level coach.

“As a coach, the technical examination is the most important way of certifying a judoka and increasing rank,” Elalem said. “As a coach, you must be well-versed and technically sound in all techniques and tactics, not just ones that you used competitively.”

As the sport director of the African Judo Union, the president of Libya Judo and a member of the International Judo Federation (IJF) sports commission, Elalem is well aware of what it takes to certify a judoka to increase rank.

He and Weithers created an examination for Paskoski modeled after IJF guidelines. They submitted this examination to their national federations and received permission to administer the exam.

They will hold the certification at the US Olympic Training Center’s dojo. Once Paskoski completes the certification, Weithers and Elalem will submit letters to the Macedonian judo federation from their national federations to have him formally recognized.

“What we are doing is not strange. It is not unheard of for people from other countries to certify each oJudother,” Weithers explained.

“They surprised me,” Paskoski admitted. “I didn’t expect that kind of help. With this certification, I will be able to raise 1st DAN’s in Macedonia.”

This will help raise the proficiency level of judokas in his home country. Elalem added that the increase in rank will also help Paskoski apply his ICECP project, which involves developing a year-long training program to prepare elite judo athletes for high-level competition.

“This is what ICECP is all about,” Weithers said. “We have the opportunity to help each other and everyone involved benefits.”

Paskoski’s examination will take place next Wed, Oct 21. The other ICECP participants are invited to observe and will surely be on hand to support and congratulate their comrade as he takes a big step for judo in Macedonia, with a little help from his new friends.