By Mark Etheridge
It was girl power all the way to gold for South African judoka at the African Junior Judo Championships in Egypt.
And it was African Region 5 Games champion Michaela Whitebooi who flew the SA flag highest when she won gold in the -48 kilogram division.
The little tiger from Tuks/HPC in Pretoria beat two north African fighters to the gold medal. In the preliminaries she beat Fatima Zahra El Qorachi and then went on to beat Algeria’s Hadjer Meceremin the final.
Said 23-year-old Whitebooi after her win: ‘This is the next step to what I want to achieve. As I was preparing for the fight, listening to music, the whole time I was thinking of two people, my mom and my coach. It’s because of them that I am here now,’ she told Road to Rio 2016.
‘And also without God I wouldn’t be here. It’s just so hard to explain the feeling of being here after all the hard work.
‘As for the fight I just kept telling myself that I could do this. The girl was very aggressive but I stood my ground and won eventually. The tears of joy just wouldn’t stop coming… even on the podium.
‘The feeling of just having that gold medal and being No1 in Africa is just amazing!’
There was also a bronze medal for SA in the shape of Courtney Read, another Region 5 champion, in the -70kg division.
She lost her first fight to Algeria’s Sarah Kardjadj but then picked herself up to beat another Algerian, Yasmine Tidjani and then Login Amin of Egypt in the fight for third spot.
South Africa’s other female contestant was Siobhan Estehuysen who ended fifth in the -52kg division.
The highest placed men’s competitor was Juan de Bruyn, joint fifth in the -100kg. Other results were: Lerato Sentso (seventh in the -55kg), Ayanda Wolayi (seventh in the -66kg) and Vernon Henry (seventh in the -73kg).
South Africa’s two medals saw them end fifth on the medals table as Algeria topped the 10-nation event.
In the picture are Read, left and Whitebooi