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Golden girl Scholtz adds more weight to her luggage

By GARY LEMKE in Accra

The day after arriving in a hot and humid Ghana, Johanita Scholtz had been labouring with a bag carrying nearly four litres of water. “We easily go through three litres, at least,” in this heat, she explained. When pressed on her expectations in defending the women’s singles badminton title from Morocco 2019, she replied, “I’m hoping to win gold.”

True to her word she did exactly that, coming from behind in the final set of a thriller against Uganda’s Husina Kobugani. And for good measure, when she packs her bags to leave the athletes village at the University of Ghana, she will have that gold, along with a bronze medal she won in the mixed doubles with Caden Kadora.

The 24-year-old Scholtz, who was earlier in the week seen helping move kit from one Team SA residence to another, has been one of the shining stars in the multi-coded squad here in Accra.

And when she successfully defended her women’s singles badminton title, she became a back-to-back African Games champion.

The result has opened the door for possible inclusion at the Paris Olympics, which is something she marks as a high priority for 2024. She will continue her attempt in upcoming events in Poland and Kazakhstan.

When asked about the difference between her 2019 gold medal in Morocco and this one in Ghana, she replied: “Age! I’m four years older and physically and mentally I’m a lot stronger.

“I knew that when I came to these African Games – she is now ranked No2 on the continent – that I had a target on my back. They say that sometimes defending a title is tougher than winning it in the first place.”

Immediately after she had sealed match point she felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. “Everything is so tense when you’re playing to win a medal for your country and when I won my whole body relaxed. I was proud and relieved.”

Her phone was one of the first things she reached for afterwards and she called her husband. “I told him straight afterwards that I won gold and then joked with him, ‘did you actually watch my match’? Because  the family tends to get a bit tense, so I think there was relief all round.

In total she played 10 matches on the way to winning two medals, but admitted that the heat wasn’t as suffocating after a week in Accra as it had been. We acclimatised well and the hall was well ventilated,” she said.

Badminton returns to South Africa with there medals – Scholtz’s singles gold, her bronze with Kadora and the men’s double pairing of Jared Elliott and Robert Summers.

Photos by Roger Sedres in Accra
Main image: Johanita Scholtz
Seondary image: Scholtz with Team SA delegation leader Patience Shikwambana