The great Cuban judoka Estela Rodríguez, unfortunate loss (Photo: Jit)
The death of the first Olympic medalist in women’s judo in America, the Cuban Estela Rodríguez, surprised the sports fans of the Caribbean island this weekend.
According to a statement from the State Sports Institute (Inder), Rodríguez, 54, died of cardiac arrest in a Havana hospital where she had been admitted “for conditions associated with diabetes.”
Before the moment of her death, the former judo star had maintained her traditional presence in public activities.
The news of her death caused numerous expressions of sympathy and shock on social networks, as the sports press recalled her international career in various reviews.
Estela Rodríguez was born in Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba – the second most important province in the country – on November 12, 1967. She was an Olympic silver medalist in the super heavyweight division at the Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996 Games.
Estela Rodríguez made history in world judo
Her first great international success came in 1989 when she won the gold medal at the World Championship in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. She was the first Cuban judoka to achieve that distinction. In total, Rodríguez won three world medals during her career.
In addition, Rodríguez also won four medals at the Pan American Games: two at Indianapolis 1987 (silver and bronze in the super heavyweight and open categories) and two gold medals at Havana 1991.
For this performance, the burly judoka, who was impressive for her height of more than 6 feet and 290 pounds, was proclaimed as the most outstanding athlete in those continental Games in her country.
A year later, the Cuban won her first Olympic medal in Barcelona. On July 27, 1992, the first day of the judo tournament at the Palau Blaugrana, Rodríguez debuted on the Catalan tatami with an ippon victory over the world bronze medalist, the Polish Beata Maksymowa.
In the same way, before the limit, she defeated the Thai Suyita Yompakdee and in the semifinals France’s Natalie Lupino, also world bronze medalist in 1991, by yuko (half a point). For the gold medal, in an oversight, she fell by ippon to the Chinese, Xiaoyang Zhuang.
When she got on the podium, she became the first Olympic medalist in her country and America. Women’s judo, after being a demonstration sport in Seoul 1988, became official on the Barcelona 1992 program.
Two days later, on July 29, her teammate, Odalys Revé, was crowned the first Olympic champion of the Americas by triumphing in the 66 kg over the Italian Emanuela Pierantozzi.
Four years later Rodríguez reappeared on the Olympic stage to repeat her silver medal feat in Atlanta.
In the first match, she beat the Indian Shah Coolí by ippon, then the South Korean Hyun Me Shun by wazzari (three-quarters of a point). In the quarterfinals she beat the Canadian Nancy Filteau by ippon, and in the semifinal she defeated, again, the Polish Maksymowa, by superiority.
In the final the Cuban was beaten by the Chinese Fuming Sun but this time only by a slight advantage.
After her retirement in 2001, Rodríguez was part of the coaching staff of the national teams and was currently training boys and girls in Havana.
Due to her merits, the brilliant judoka was included in the Pan American Confederation Hall of Fame.