#TuksJudo: Michaela Whitebooi is only the third South Africa female judoka to compete at the Olympic Games

Posted on July 10, 2021

17 years. That is how long it has been since a South African female judoka competed at the Olympic Games but it is about to change when Michaela Whitebooi (TuksSport High School matriculant & TuksJudo matriculant), steps onto the mats in Tokyo on 24 July.

She is only the third female South African judoka who will be in action at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Tania Tallie represented South Africa at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and Hen

#TuksSportHigh: Michaela Whitebooi is only the third South Africa female judoka to compete at the Olympic Games

17 years. That is how long it has been since a South African female judoka competed at the Olympic Games but it is about to change when Michaela Whitebooi (now a TuksSport High School matriculant & TuksJudo Academy matriculant), steps onto the mats in Tokyo on 24 July.

She is only the third female South African judoka who will be in action at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Tania Tallie represented South Africa at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and Henriette Moller in 2004 in Athens. 

The COVID-19 virus so nearly put an end to the Tuks judoka's Olympic dreams. In March, she tested positive. 

"I guess I was lucky. My symptoms weren't bad at all. Blocked nose, sore throat, two days maximum of body pains and fatigue. I slept a lot to make sure my body recovered faster. The worst of it was missing out on competing at two tournaments."

Growing up in Gqeberha, Whitebooi did not have it easy. When she was still young, her dad died it led to her mom, Minnie, working as a domestic worker. However, the one thing that Whitebooi always had going for her is being a talented judoka.

"I will never know how life would've been for me if it was not for judo, but I know many young girls from home don't have the opportunity to finish school and study further. Some had to give up school to support their families and go to work. 

"I have sacrificed to leave my home at the age of 14 to go to Tuks. It was terrifying, but getting the announcement of being part of team South Africa for the Olympic Games has proven why it was the right decision. 

"I hope this will open more doors for me to step up for my mom. She is my hero as she never gives up. Judo has allowed me the opportunity to change her life for the better. That is why I keep pushing myself.

"It is not always easy. There were many times where I asked myself, Michaela, why are you doing this to yourself. Why not just stop and not go through all this pain and failure. But every time I win, I realise that hard work does pay off."

The Tuks judoka is a double African champion, winning the under-48kg title in 2019 and 2020. In 2018, she won a bronze medal. Whitebooi is also a former African junior champion. She might be the only local judoka to have won three gold medals at the African Champs.

Whitebooi credits her coach Nikola Filipov as being the pillar of strength throughout her judo career. 

"I will never be able to repay 'Coach Nikola" for his sacrifice and investment into my life. We have come a very long way, since 2010. I know I have disappointed him several times, but he stood by my side no matter how difficult it was to face failure." 

Whitebooi is realistic as to the challenges that await her in Tokyo.

"I know my abilities, I just need the spark to go off, and it will all happen. If I can compete in the quarterfinals during the Games, it will be amazing." 

riette Moller in 2004 in Athens. 

The COVID-19 virus so nearly put an end to the Tuks judoka's Olympic dreams. In March, she tested positive. 

"I guess I was lucky. My symptoms weren't bad at all. Blocked nose, sore throat, two days maximum of body pains and fatigue. I slept a lot to make sure my body recovered faster. The worst of it was missing out on competing at two tournaments."

Growing up in Gqeberha, Whitebooi did not have it easy. When she was still young, her dad died it led to her mom, Minnie, working as a domestic worker. However, the one thing that Whitebooi always had going for her is being a talented judoka.

"I will never know how life would've been for me if it was not for judo, but I know many young girls from home don't have the opportunity to finish school and study further. Some had to give up school to support their families and go to work. 

"I have sacrificed to leave my home at the age of 14 to go to Tuks. It was terrifying, but getting the announcement of being part of team South Africa for the Olympic Games has proven why it was the right decision. 

"I hope this will open more doors for me to step up for my mom. She is my hero as she never gives up. Judo has allowed me the opportunity to change her life for the better. That is why I keep pushing myself.

"It is not always easy. There were many times where I asked myself, Michaela, why are you doing this to yourself. Why not just stop and not go through all this pain and failure. But every time I win, I realise that hard work does pay off."

The Tuks judoka is a double African champion, winning the under-48kg title in 2019 and 2020. In 2018, she won a bronze medal. Whitebooi is also a former African junior champion. She might be the only local judoka to have won three gold medals at the African Champs.

Whitebooi credits her coach Nikola Filipov as being the pillar of strength throughout her judo career. 

"I will never be able to repay 'Coach Nikola" for his sacrifice and investment into my life. We have come a very long way, since 2010. I know I have disappointed him several times, but he stood by my side no matter how difficult it was to face failure." 

Whitebooi is realistic as to the challenges that await her in Tokyo.

"I know my abilities, I just need the spark to go off, and it will all happen. If I can compete in the quarterfinals during the Games, it will be amazing."

- Author Wilhelm De Swardt
Published by Bhekani Ndebele

Copyright © University of Pretoria 2022. All rights reserved.

FAQ's Email Us Virtual Campus Share Cookie Preferences