South Africa’s judokas are just as good or better than their counterparts in the USA; however, at the last three Olympic Games, the Americans medalled while there was not much to get excited about from a local perspective.
After training and competing in the USA for a few months DJ le Grange, who is considered to be one of South Africa’s top judokas, said he now realises the reason for the Americans success.
“As far as physical conditioning and technical skills are concerned they are no better than us. It is all about self-confidence. I know many would disagree arguing that the Americans will always have an advantage because of better funding. The reality is that their funding compared to others sports in the USA is quite insignificant.
“The big difference between the Americans and us are that they believe they are the best. Sometimes their self-believe borders on arrogance. I guess it stems from them being proud citizens of one of the world’s biggest countries.
“From a personal perspective I can say in the past there were times when I competed internationally that I totally psyched myself out. While walking in the tunnel to the judo mats my heartbeat will start to accelerate and self-doubt would start to creep up. By the time the fight is due to start, I would have convinced myself that my opponent is a better judoka. That is not the way to win any fight,” said the Tuks judoka who finished second in his weight category at the New York State Championships.
Le Grange is confident the turning point in his judo career was last year when he won a gold medal at the African Open Tournament in Yaounde, Cameroon.
“It was the first time that I competed believing that I am good enough to win. Our coach, Nikola Filipov, should take credit for that.”
The Tuks judoka will be competing over the weekend at the South African Trials Tournament in Port Elizabeth.
“It is quite a vital tournament if you want to qualify for the South Africa judo squad. If you are not on the team, you cannot compete internationally.
“My main two focusses this year is to medal at the African Championships in April. If I do so, I will qualify for the World Championships which is important. I need to compete against the best to prepare for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.”
After the SA Trials Tournament Le Grange and two more Tuks judokas, Michaela Whitebooi and UnelleSnyman will leave to train in Japan.