By Caoilte de Barra
Colombia is set to bring their largest-ever squad to an IMMAF tournament at the 2022 Pan American Championships. The team of eight will top the previous number of athletes they sent back at the 2019 Pan American Championships. They hope to better their previous success, which saw them take home five medals; two silver and three bronze.
The following eight athletes will represent Colombia at the 2022 IMMAF Pan American Championships.
Daniella Duque [Strawweight]
Laura Beltran Oquendo [Flyweight]
Paula Aguilera [Bantamweight]
Mateo Lara Cuellar [Flyweight]
Diego Torres Valbuena [Bantamweight]
Walter Plazas [Featherweight]
Tahel Sotelo Rodriguez [Lightweight]
Jeisson Andres Farias Poveda [Welterweight]
Three of the team are returning to IMMAF competition, while five others will make their maiden IMMAF appearance. Leading the line will be Daniella Duque, who will be hoping that third time’s the charm. She competed at the 2018 and 2019 World Championships but failed to secure a medal. The strawweight’s most success came in 2018, when she opened her IMMAF account in style, defeating Lucie Truhlarova via TKO/KO in the third round.
Her tournament run came to a close in the quarter-finals when she met Nina Back. However, she has found success on the regional scene by winning national titles. This will be Duque’s first time competing at the Pan American Championships, and she will have to overcome some stiff competition in the likes of Giulliany Perea and Hope Holmes to take gold.
After taking up martial arts at age seven, Plazas had to pause his training due to school but found his way back to Karate after some time before finding MMA. The two-time national champion is now one of the most experienced amateur athletes on the team, with over ten bouts to his name. He also works as a personal trainer and receives a grant from the government for his sporting achievements.
Ahead of the Championships, team coach Mauricio Oquendo outlined his expectations and his team’s preparation.
“The expectations are to come back with a gold medal. What we have in mind is to win at least three gold medals. My viewpoint as a coach compared to other tournaments is that we already have experience. We know what we need in each match to get to the finals.” He said.
“We have been working on the strengths of our athletes. Because in my experience as a professional fighter. What didn’t work; was focusing on my weak points. Doing that can make a fighter insecure. So, the preparation that I have been doing with them is based on their strengths and letting them understand that they are complete fighters.
“In this tournament, the difference, compared to other ones, is the preparation became better because of the experience I was learning as a coach and as an athlete. My team is even better prepared psychologically, and they have confidence in themselves.”
The federation’s president, Jaime Baron, added how pleased he is to see the hard work paying off.
“As president of the Colombian Association of Mixed Martial Arts (OCAMM). For me, it is very pleasing to start a sports federation. To make visible a sport that in our country had a very bad reputation. However, thanks to day-to-day work, today we have a selection of 8 athletes, the largest team to compete internationally. We bet on the growth of each and every one of our athletes, their careers, and their dreams. And we have the highest expectations in this Pan American Championship.”