Perfect judo is not going to cut it. It is the conclusion Michaela Whitebooi came to in her quest to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The Tuks judoka seemingly could do no wrong towards the end of last year. She won three tournaments in Africa on the trot. What excited her was winning gold at the African Champs in Madagascar over December. Whitebooi bagged 700, oh so, valuable ranking points.
She is currently 34th in the women’s under-48kg category on the latest international rankings. In theory, it means the Tuks judoka could be on track to compete at the Tokyo Games. Whitebooi is, however, not one to leave anything to chance.
"Ever since I took up judo, my goal was to represent South Africa at the Olympics. Winning the African title is a big boost, but I can't afford to rest on my laurels. From now to June, the international rankings are continuously going to change.
"I need at least another 400 ranking points. The plan is to compete in at least four European tournaments. If I can get one good result or consistently perform well, I ought to qualify.
"But I will have to make a mindset change. Technically I am considered one of the best. Unfortunately, it is not always an advantage when fighting. Often during about, I am too focussed on the execution of my technique. It needs to be perfect as I aim to win with 'beautiful' throws. Another mistake is that I tend to doubt my abilities at crucial times.
"In contrast, most of my opponents don't care how they win. Their approach is more aggressive. If the need arises, they don't mind to brawl it out, to force you to make mistakes; getting penalised. A few points here and there are all it takes to win. It is demoralising to be in the dying seconds of a fight still needing to score points."
The Tuks judoka only plans to compete again in March.
"Since November last year, I have only been focussed on being my best when I compete. I have now taken a step back to relearn the small things that can make a huge difference at crucial moments. I also want to be adequately conditioned for what will hopefully be the final stretch to the Games."
If everything goes according to plan, Whitebooi will be competing in Uzbekistan, Turkey, and Georgia from March to June. She also hopes to attend one or two international training camps.
She has taken up another challenge. That is to learn French. It is the language most of the friends she made touring the world speaks.
Whitebooi can boast having achieved something few other South African judokas have ever done. That is winning gold on more than one occasion at the African Senior Championships. The first time she did so was in 2019 in Cape Town. She is also a former African junior champion.