By Mark Etheridge
South Africa’s rising judo stars fought their way to eight medals at the African Junior and Cadet Championships in Egypt earlier this month.
Of those medals two were gold and went to Peter Norval and Marli Meiring. Both are classified as cadets, meaning they’re aged between 15-17 years.
Norval, who fights out of the Hajime Judo Academy in Johannsburg, came out tops in the -73kg division and Tuks Judo Club’s Meiring won the -57kg women’s category (both are pictured above).
The cadets won a total of six medals between them, the others being three silvers and a bronze.
Silvers went to Brendan Pretorius (-90kg), Mose Thetsane (-55kg) and Donne Breytenbach (-48kg) while the sole bronze went to Jasmine Martin who was a gold medal winner for South Africa at last year’s AUSC Region 5 Games in Luanda, Angola.
Of the juniors (20 years of age and under) just Chante Labuschagne was successful as she won bronze in the -63kg division. Like Martin, she was also part of Team SA in Angola last year where she won individual silver. Another Region 5 Games member was Preston Davids who coached the cadets.
Assisting with managerial duties were Karin Acton, Vivian Henry and Theresa Mihalik. On the day of the team event the managers did team duties. Davids looked after the girls team and Bruwer took care of both the boys teams.
South Africa also entered three teams, cadet girls and boys and junior boys and the cadet girls brought back bronze for South Africa.
The team were managed by West Rand’s Katja Bruwer who also coached the juniors and she was encouraged with what she saw on the mat. ‘The competition was tough and those who won medals did very well indeed.
‘For most of the team that went, it’s early days in their judo careers but with the right attitude, willingness to learn and to train hard, being single-minded and focused any member of this team has the ability to become an excellent senior judoka.
‘The two gold medallists did exceptionally well because they still coped with the excitement and nerves before a final.
‘Our judoka do sometimes battle to win this last fight, so in that sense they did very well indeed and demonstrated that they are able to cope with this type of stress.
‘The good thing is that there are many more judoka, knocking at the door, and challenging the team. Our National Championships take place in Bloemfontein between 2-8 July, so it will be interesting to see who will emerge as SA champions.’
Prior to the African Championships Bruwer co-ordinated training sessions for the Gauteng based judoka and three sessions were held at Wits prior to the championships. These sessions really helped judoka who attended. Medal winners Meiring, Norval, and Pretorius attended these sessions as did several of the other judoka.