The Tuks judokas are in with a real chance to medal at this weekend’s African Cup Tournament in Cameroon.
Nikola Filipov (Tuks head coach) and Team SA judo coach at the last two Olympics, has no hesitation in saying that from a technical perspective Michaela Whitebooi (pictured above right) is one of the best.
‘If I can just get her to believe in her abilities there’s no reason why she shouldn’t win a medal at the World Championships or Olympic Games in the foreseeable future. It’s a very good thing that Michaela has been working with Monja Human (HPC sports psychologist).’
Meanwhile, 2014 Commonwealth Games judoka, DJ le Grange has training and competing in the USA and Canada during the last few weeks where he has got some very encouraging results.
Filipov is on record that along with Whitebooi, Le Grange is one of two South African judokas who currently have a realistic chance to represent South Africa at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Filipov describes Le Grange as a fighter at heart something one needs to succeed in judo.
The Tuks judoka (pictured below) fully realises that to become the best means he needs to be on a constant quest to become even fitter and stronger. ‘It’s a case of having to keep pushing the boundaries all the time. There’s never any relenting if you want to succeed.’
This hunger is what Filipov expects from all the judokas he trains. For him, it will always be about total dedication. Needless to say, the judokas being coached by him have been dominating all the major local tournaments and raking in the medals over the last few years.
Filipov has a definite opinion as to what it takes to succeed in judo. ‘It’s all about having a true fighting spirit. In judo it’s never just about how perfectly you’re able to execute a technique, or how strong and fit you are. Everybody is strong and fit. To become a champion you have to be able to push yourself to the very edge of your limits day in and day out.’
To say Filipov is passionate about judo would be an understatement. He lives for the sport and for the last 44 years, has either been participating or coaching.
And still his quest to become one of the absolute masters of the sport has not diminished. In an honest moment, the Bulgarian admits there’ll never be a day when he can sit back and say he knows everything there is to know about judo. ‘I’ll forever be student of this sport.’
That quest has led to Filipov winning numerous medals. In 1992 he represented Bulgaria at the Olympics in Barcelona where he finished ninth. However, he is more proud of his achievements in sambo (very similar to judo). He was the Bulgarian champion from 1988 to 1995 during which he never lost a fight. At the 1989 Sambo World Championships in New-York, he won silver.
The other Tuks Judoka who is competing in Cameroon is 2014 Youth Olympian Unelle Snyman. Recently she competed in the World Judo Open Championships in Morocco.
Pictures of Whitebooi and Le Grange courtesy of Reg Caldecott