By Mark Etheridge
Despite there being no joy in terms of medals for South African judoka Jasmine Martin and Marli Meiring, their Cadet World Championships experience proved an invaluable learning experience.
The two were both part of the Team South Africa multicode experience in the last year, Martin at the AUSC Region 5 Games in Angola late last year, and Meiring at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Bahamas.
At World Championships both players campaigned in the -63kg category and lost their first-round matches in Santiago, Chile… Martin to Colombian Cindy Mera on two scores, and Meiring to Mexico’s Itzel Pecha on a 20-second hold-down.
Mera went on to end seventh in the weight division.
Durban-based Martin shared her chilly Chilean experience with Team SA: ‘It was very very cold, like three degrees Celsius and six hours behind SA time, so it took a day or two to get used to the time.
‘The draw is always important. And the top eight always get the best first round draw. I’m not top eight, so I was unlucky with my first round draw, but this wasn’t a problem as I was determined to win.
‘Well, I drew the fifth-ranked girl and had a good fight. It was a full-length fight, but at the end the Colombian player was ahead in points and won. She fought well, but was nowhere near unbeatable.
‘I met all my old teammates from Brazil and got to watch all the nations fighting. A wonderful experience.’
Despite her tender years (she’s just 17) Martin has a drive and passion for judo that is as focused as a sniper’s rifle sights.
‘Maybe for many people it is just an accomplishment qualifying for the worlds or Olympics, but this was never my dream to just qualify. I want to be on the podium. I want to be the best,’ she says confidently adding that she’s already adjusting her plans towards perfection.
‘I have now realised that to follow my dreams I need to make even more personal sacrifices. I’m considering home-schooling so that I can spend my days training around the world and my nights studying. I need to do more, many more, international competitions and maybe even the European circuit next year.
‘I know this means no school friends, seeing my family less or even missing a Matric dance, but I have always wanted this and I’m going to do this.’
Meiring, a Grade 10 scholar at Montana Hoërskool in Pretoria, was also blown away by the experience. ‘It was an awesome experience, a total of 428 judo players under the age of 18. And to represent your country is surely every athlete’s dream.
‘There were 63 other countries and just two of us from South Africa at these World Championships.
‘The International Judo Federation supported Judo South Africa financially in order to send us to worlds, and I had the privilege to compete on the same mat as 31 of the best -63kg players in the world.
‘There was some exceptional judo, which made it so interesting’. I learnt so much with my eyes,’ she says.
‘There were so many players that warmed up that you had to keep your eyes wide open so that no-one bumped us or fell on us. The warm-ups were so different that you can’t help watching everyone.’
As for her fight, Meiring said: ‘I walked on to the mat and all that was going through my mind was what my coaches (my father, coach Wessel and coach Katja) had told me what to do and what not to do, sometimes one gets confused with different things.
‘As we started I got my grip, turned her around and she went down on her knee. I tried to get her in a hold, but she turned out quickly. I tried it again, but then she got over my shoulders and controlled. All I could do was defend, defend, defend.
‘She then turned in for a throw and I lost my balance and fell on my side. She got the point and immediately held me with all that she had. I tried to get free, but she had me under control that I honestly couldn’t move out at all.’
But Meiring is moving on and already looking on putting the lessons learnt to good use.
‘What I learnt? A person gets only one chance, the more aggressive fighter wins, the one who believes most in themselves will get the success.’
Final words go to Katja Bruwer, who accompanied the duo to the championships as a coach/manager: ‘We were very privileged to participate in an event of this magnitude. Competition was extremely tough, and our young girls gave their all.
‘I think both girls now have a clear understanding of what the level of world judo is all about.
‘They need to work hard and focus on dominating their category in Southern Africa and Africa as a whole, and then start working their way up the ranks internationally.
‘Both have the ability to do it. My belief is that the mind is the most powerful weapon we have and they need to use that weapon well. A big thank-you to all who supported us in getting to the event.’
In the picture taken in Chile, are Meiring (left) and Martin (right)