#TuksJudo: Tuks judoka wins gold at African Championships in Cape Town

Posted on April 26, 2019

The Tuks judoka, Michaela Whitebooi's, Olympic dream is starting to become a reality after she won a gold medal during the African Championships in Cape Town yesterday.
Seconds after Whitebooi managed to defeat Hadjer Mecerem (Algeria) in the under-48kg final the tears were flowing. The Tuks judoka could not help herself. Over the last few years, she had to overcome quite a few disappointments. All that kept her going was an absolute hunger of wanting to represent South Africa at the Olympic Games.
"Being an African champion is special. I never thought it would come to this. It had always merely been a dream, but now I realise that hard work and perseverance does pay off," said Whitebooi who was the African junior champion in 2015.
By winning the gold medal, Whitebooi might have improved her international ranking by more than 30 positions. Next week she could place as high as 34th.  She needs to be ranked about 20th to have a realistic chance of representing South Africa at next year's Games in Tokyo.
"I want to dedicate my gold medal to my mom, Minnie, and my coach, Nikola Filipov. 
"When my dad passed away my mom had to take over the roles of both parents. It was a challenge to her then, and it still is. In spite of not having a proper job, she finds a way to put food on the table and manages to push through even when times are tough. She has been my biggest fan from day one.
"I can't thank 'Coach Nikola' enough. He guided me through the tournament. There were moments during my fights when I was at a loss of what to do. He always remained calm and gave me the advice I needed to win. 
"What I appreciate is how he never leaves anything to chance. Before every one of my fights, he analysed my opponent to see what their weaknesses were," said the Tuks judoka.
Whitebooi described her first fight against Mauritius's Priscilla Morand as the toughest.
"The mistake I made was allowing her to dictate things on the mats. Instead of fighting as usually would I was adapting to her style. 'Coach Nikola' was the one who turned things around by pointing it out. I still don't know how I managed to execute the counter that led to me winning.
"During my second fight against, Aziza Chakir (Morocco) the challenge was to do something different as we were involved in quite a few bouts. She knew what to expect."
Ironically the final was a repeat of the 2015 Africa Junior final. Whitebooi admits being confident because she knew she had a slight psychological advantage.
If she can find the proper finances, Whitebooi is hoping to compete at the World Championships later this year and maybe two to three international tournaments.
"One of my most significant drawbacks at the moment is a lack of international experience. That is why it is essential that I get to compete internationally.  The judokas from different countries got different styles and techniques, and I got to be exposed to it to become more confident." 
- Author Wilhelm de Swardt
Published by Leonore Jordaan

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