To have a dream of competing at the Olympics takes more than hours and hours of training and significant sacrifices; there is a definite financial aspect to it.
Often it is not a lack of talent that ends an athlete's hope. It is money or, to be more precise, a lack of funds.
Five South African karatekas have been invited to compete next month at the Olympics Karate Qualification Tournament in Paris. It is the first time that karate is part of the Olympic program. Unfortunately, it could be a once-off happening. Karate won't be part of the Paris Games.
That is why Meghan Smit of Tuks, is going to give her utmost to qualify. The sad thing is that her biggest challenge was not honing her fighting skills over the last few weeks. She had to find time to sell raffle tickets to raise funds to go to Paris. At a rough estimate, it is going to cost each of five karatekas R50 000 to compete.
Smit has raised some money. If all else fails, the Tuks karateka is prepared to take out a bank loan to compete. Smit knows there are no guarantees that she will qualify. The challenge is to medal. It could be asked why she is willing to risk so much.
"I think every athlete has that internal hope that as an underdog, you are going to be the one that will make the most of such a once in a lifetime opportunity. I guess it comes down to passion overruling logic. If I am honest, my quest in Paris is going to be against all odds. But I have to go for it. Competing at the Olympics has forever been my dream," is how Smit explains it.
The last time she was in action was in March last year. Smit finished fifth at the African Championships. A week later, she competed in Dubai.
"This year, I competed at SA's and a few local tournaments. I realise that is far from ideal preparation for the Olympic Qualification Tournament. That is why I opted to train against men over the last few weeks. They are faster in their execution, so it takes me out of my comfort zone."
Smit believes that the Covid-19 pandemic might have levelled the international playing field somewhat.
"Europeans karatekas are used to compete every second week. For the past year, they were lucky if they got to compete once a month."
Smit is undoubtedly going to do her homework before she goes to Paris. The Europeans Karate Championships is happening this week.
"I plan to watch some of the fights on YouTube, especially of the karatekas in my weight category. It has stood me in good stead to do so. Last year I competed against a karateka from Kazakhstan who had beaten the world champion. I gave a good account of myself as I knew beforehand what her strengths and weaknesses were. I only lost 1-0."
The other South Africans invited to compete in Paris are Elsabe le Roux, Maxine Willemse, Michael du Plessis and Morgan Moss.