Tuks's Michaela Whitebooi and Unelle Snyman earned the right to be called Africa's best through their recent exploits on the judo mats now they are about to challenge the best in Tokyo.
From Sunday they will be competing at the World Championships. They are under no illusion as to what awaits them, fully realising that there is no comparison to winning in Africa and facing off to the world's best.
"Both Unelle and I will need to step up big time," said Whitebooi who won a silver medal over the weekend at the African Games in Rabat, Morocco. Snyman also won a silver medal.
In Tokyo, it won't be for them a case of trying to medal. The main aim is to gain experience. Winning just one fight will be considered as a significant achievement because the one challenge they face is getting regular opportunities to test themselves against the best.
Both have set their sights on trying to qualify for next year's Tokyo Olympic Games. As things stand, they are on track to do so. Whitebooi is currently ranked 40th and Snyman ranked 38th. The top 18 judokas in each category qualify automatically; however, it is essential to note that only judoka per country are allowed to compete. So from an Olympic perspective, the two Tuks judokas could be seen as ranked higher.
The challenge for them is to try and attain about 400 more international ranking points in the next few months. If they do, it is near certainty that they will qualify for the Games. That is why winning at least one fight at the World Championships is so important.
Whitebooi who won a gold medal earlier this year at the African Championships in Cape Town is quite disappointed about her performance at the African Games.
"I am angry at myself for the way I allowed my opponent to get the better of me in the final but kudos to her on the day she deserved to win. The biggest mistake I can make is to dwell too long on what happened. There is nothing I can do to change it. My focus is now on being the best I can be at the World Championships."
According to the Tuks judoka, she is going to do her utmost not to doubt her own abilities. She sees it as a weakness comparing it to losing even before she stepped onto the mats.
Snyman, who won a silver medal at the African Championships, sees each fight as a unique new challenge in light of every judoka using different techniques. Therefore, she believes that she is only as good as the last time she competed.
|African Games in Rabat, Morocco: Michaela Gernonay Whitebooi, Silver
||Unelle Snyman, Silver