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It’s a golden day for SA judoka at Region 5 Games

By Mark Etheridge
in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Eight times the national anthem rang around the ZITF Hall 5 as the medals started rolling in for Team South Africa at the African Union Region 5 Games here on Monday afternoon.
That meant the South African judo players had scooped eight gold medals on the one and only day of judo competition at these Under-20 Youth Games.
First gold medal winner was 18-year-old Desiree Blake who beat Malawi’s Jean Mwangonde by virtue of an ippon less than 30 seconds into her four-minute final.
Hers was one of no less than 14 medals won by this code who put up an impressive display against their fellow southern region rivals. Nine countries provided judoka for the competition.
The other proud gold medallists were provided by Blake’s female team-mates (Kirsten Chananie, 63kg; Kayla Cameron, 70kg; Courtney Read, 78kg and Rethabile Sehlabaka 78kg+).
The three boys who took gold were James Seccombe (81kg), Chris Golding (90kg) and Janko Strydom in the heaviest category of them all (100+).
There were also silver medals for Babalo Magqqbi (60kg) and Shawn Kearney (73kg).
And then there were four bronzes for William Redpath (66kg), Geronai Whitebooi (48kg), Skye Knoester (52kg) and Joshua Bester (60kg).
A beaming Blake, who took up judo when she was 11 years old, told Road to Rio 2016 afterwards: ‘The first of my four fights was probably the most difficult but it went better than expected.
‘The next two were OK but the last one was very nerve-wracking because obviously it’s a make or break.’
On being SA’s first gold-medallist at these Games: ‘Wow, this is such a big team but to be the first person to actually do that and win the gold is really amazing.’
Blake started judo rather unexpectedly, in Port Elizabeth. ‘My younger brother Earl, started judo so I used to go and look after him and then I just started doing it myself.’
What’s next? ‘Well I’m still a junior now but I’d really like to try and get to the All Africa Games in Congo-Brazzaville next year.’
South Africa comfortably topped the judo medal standings with next best being Angola with three medals (all gold).
Boxing at the Large City Hall in the city centre saw a win and a loss in early evening action. KwaZulu-Natal’s Ntethelelo Ngema beat Namibia’s, Fredrick Nghutenanye in the 60kg division.
Ngema won 3-0 in a good fight and showed excellent defense, reports Jessica Choga, from ringside. ‘He didn’t give his opponent a chance to pounce on. It was indeed a mature, good fight.
Coach Hans Brits said: ‘We are developing Ngema for the  Commonwealth Youth Games next year. I am very proud of the excellency he displayed and his style was great. I also appreciate the great work our physios are doing to calm the athletes and keep them relaxed.’
Team manager Pretty Tsotetsi says: ‘We knew that Ngema was going to win judging from the match we watched his opponent fight yesterday. We therefore capitalized on his weaknesses. We also gave him lots of motivation and we could see he fought from the heart.
‘Our boxers are already in the bronze medal category so they are stepping up to get either silver or gold. Ngema will compete against Zambia in the finals.
In another bout Sivenathi Nolawu took on Zambia in the lightweight (64kg) division but went down 2-1 on point.
There were another two wins though for Sinamiso Ntuli (69kg) against  Botswana’s Mathonse and Nthuthuko Nyawo against Namibia’s Gaseb in the 75kg division.
In tennis action, the welcome rain wasn’t that welcome at the Bulawayo Athletic Club as the cloudburst put paid to much of the afternoon programme, reports Etheridge.
But there were still three wins for the SA players left in the draw.
Second seeded Francois Kellerman beat Zambia’s Lwanga Lumbeta in straight sets, 6-2 6-0 and the two girls also had a smooth passage through to the semi-final stage.
Second seed Katie Poluta beat Phatsimo Ruela of Botswana 6-0 6-2 and unseeded Caitlin Herb accounted for Zione Mkhoma 6-1 6-0. Her reward though is a tough encounter against top-seeded Valeria Bhunu of Zimbabwe in the semis.
The boys doubles combo of Kellerman and Musa Mpondi (he lost in the first round of the doubles on Saturday) take on Mozambique in the second round after a first round bye and top seeds Poluta and Herb will take on Zambia in the first round.
‘I think of our three singles players in action on Tuesday Francois and Katie look to have the best chance of going through but Caitlin has a hard task against the top seed,’ said manager Patrick Tsunke.
Meanwhile our young Under-17 soccer players suffered their second defeat on the trot. After they went down to their older Zambian counterparts 6-1 on Friday, they lost 3-1 to Lesotho on Monday, Malebogo Modise getting the SA goal.
After SA’s women’s basketballers beat Botswana the men went down to Zimbabwe 51-62 in a later game.
Track and field is scheduled to get under way at White City Stadium on Tuesday, provided all the lane markings have managed to dry sufficiently after the week’s first rain.