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Gold at Africa Judo Championships


USSA (University Sport South Africa) would like to congratulate one of its students, Michaela Whitebooi, for winning gold at the Africa Judo Championships in Cape Town. The championships are a yearly event organised by the African Judo Union on a country rotational system. The first ever tournament was held in Tunisia, 1994.

Michaela’s judo path began in 2006 at age 10 when her friend asked her if she would like to do judo, to which she consented. At the time she was in Booysens Primary School, Port Elizabeth. Her coach at the time, Robbie Clemens quickly realised that his student had a lot of natural ability for the sport and a high fighting IQ. He encouraged her to take part in her first championships, the SA Champs (South African Championships). It turned out to be a great learning experience for her and from the onset took part in every SA Champs right until the present day; taking second place only once or twice and first place every other time.

In 2009 her dad passed away. An opportunity presented itself for her to move to Pretoria to train at the Tuks HPC (University of Pretoria High Performance Centre) as well as to study at the TUKsSport High School. She accepted the proposal with open arms, this would also take some pressure off her mother’s shoulders after the loss of her husband. It was in Tuks that she met her coach, Nikola Filipoz, a former heavy-weight world number 2 who has produced many Olympians.

Under coach Nikola’s guidance, Michaela took part in the 2012, Kadet u/17 World Championships (USA); 2015 U/20 World Championships (Abu Dhabi – Dubai), 2018 Senior World Championships (Azerbaijan) and the 2019 African Championships. On being asked what it is like to compete at these championships she said that it is difficult for South Africa, even though they are among the best in Africa. The difficulty arises from the fact that many of the top international teams compete against one another every month which takes the level of competition to higher levels.

Her preparation for the 2019 Africa Championships began in January. Michaela and her team travelled to Japan on mid March to April for a 2week training camp. Following this, they travelled back home to train at the Tuxedo Club; emphasis being placed on the mental and technical side of fighting. On 23 April she left for Cape Town, the venue of the 2019 Africa Championships. The weigh-in took place the following day with day 1 of competition taking place on 25 April, with the light-weights competing. On merit of being a bronze medallist at the same tournament a year earlier, she was promoted to the quarter finals where she met a Mauritian judoka. Having dispatched her, she went on to face a Moroccan in the semi finals whom she got out of the way also.

Our star was now poised to take on an Algerian champion in the finals. All 3 women are ranked highly in Africa, they are the top 3 light-weights and they also do well outside of Africa. It was not going to be an easy final having fought 2 top fighters already. The beginning of the fight was a bitter struggle against an opponent whom she had previously defeated. This was their second meeting. Her opponent knew quite well how Michaela fights. Gathering herself, she was able to unleash on her rival her favourite throw, the ippon. Just like that, it was game over. Our start reigned supreme yet again.

‘’I’m happy to have made my mum and coach proud. It’s a struggle of the mind and body. I’m happy that I sacrificed that time and effort and it all paid off. My advice to people is that I’d like more of them to join judo. The numbers have decreased. For all other athletes, the difficult time will pay off at some point.’’

Her long term goals are to win gold at the 2020 Africa Championships and to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games.

To ensure that she continues on her path of victory and success, Michaela requests that those who are willing to assist in sponsorships please assist her. She can be reached at gmwhitebooi@gmail.com





Posted by USSA Communications Unit on 07 May, 2019.
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