National judo champions, Donné and Thomas Breytenbach can attribute at least part of their success to their reluctance to take afternoon naps at pre-primary school.
At the recent trials ahead of the Youth Commonwealth Games to be held in Port Elizabeth in April, the TuksSport High School twins both won gold medals.
Donné is a four-time South African champion in her weight category while Thomas has been national champion on two occasions.
Another highlight for Donné was finishing second at a tournament in Scotland last year. Thomas was fifth in the same tournament.
The story of how the twins, currently in Grade Eight, became involved in judo is quite amusing. Explains Thomas: ‘When we were in pre-primary school we had to take compulsory afternoon naps. Donné and I both hated these naps and we found a way to sneak out to a nearby judo club where we started training,’ said Thomas.
‘We’d been doing this for about eight months before my dad received a huge coaching bill from the club. He was rightfully upset about the unexpected bill at the time. Louis Nolte, the coach, persuaded my dad to allow us to compete in one tournament and Donné and I both won. Somehow that helped to persuade our parents to let us continue our judo training. As we became more experienced we started to win more often.’
The twins now both have brown belts in the sport.
‘What I love about judo is the variety of challenges. It feels as if we have to master something new every week and that is exciting. Judo is also a sport in which you learn to be really disciplined,’ said Donné who trains three times a day, six days a week.
According to Thomas it is good that he and his sister are both judokas. ‘Because we train so hard it often happens that you get to a stage where you just feel that you cannot go on much longer. A quick glance at my sister is all that is necessary to get me going again because I know she’s going through exactly the same experience as I am. It’s definitely special to share our disappointments and ‘victories’ as brother and sister,’ said Thomas
Ronda Rousey (US), who won a bronze medal in judo at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and who is also a former bantamweight UFC world champion, is Donné’s role model. ‘Apart from being a really good fighter, Rousey also has the ability to let what happens on the mat or in the ring stay in the ring. No matter what happens, she does not bear any grudges and to me that is a very good quality to have.’
As for Thomas, he’s appreciative of the achievements of Kung Fu legend, Bruce Lee.
Picture of the Breytenbach twins courtesy of Reg Caldecott