South Africa’s Michaela Whitebooi, a student representative for the USSA judo board has competed as judoka at the USSA Championships, winning gold at the Senior Africa Championship in April 2019 and went onto snatch a silver medal at the Africa Games in Morocco, aims to make her Olympic dreams a reality.
Whitebooi is studying towards a BCOM Honours Internal Auditing degree at the University of Pretoria. In her budding career, she says she has learnt that; “The biggest lesson is that you will fail somewhere somehow along your path to achieve your goal; but it is important to keep your eye on the end objective.”
The Tuks student speaks about her disappointment in her result at the Africa Games, the student-athlete continues: “Gold is always the end goal but I focused on what the competition was meant to be and how I could grow from the mistakes I made at that event.” She has acknowledged that she has grown significantly from judo and that it has taught her a lot of core values that she currently applies in her life.
On her experience of competing at an international tournament and being the flagbearer for South Africa at the African Games Whitebooi recalled.
“I always thought that the national anthem was the best feeling but being able to walk with the flag.” – South African judoka, Michaela Whitebooi.
“I always thought that the national anthem was the best feeling but being able to walk with the flag, it felt like I was holding the whole country in my hand and that the team following me was the people back home supporting us to achieve our goals. I never thought it would be such a great experience but that moment was among the best moments of my life.”
About three years ago, Whitebooi was upset with herself for not being in the spot she wanted to be in her career. She admitted that she wasn’t even a medal contender, however after 2019 and significant growth in her sporting code through various failures, she finally made it onto the podium.
The upcoming judo star states that she always thought to have a judo hero you would need to look for the people that always win and have lots of medals; she recently realized that that was not the case.
“My hero is Marlon August from Mozambique judo; he overcame many obstacles in his path to qualify for the Olympic Games but in the end his passion and belief in himself got him to represent Mozambique at the Olympics and make his country proud.
He is also my mentor. I can go to him about anything that I need, especially helping overcome various situations which I can’t handle on my own.”
Whitebooi’s interested in judo came about through a friend. Her main goal is to be an international level judoka that can represent the African continent as well as qualify and participate in the Tokyo Olympic Games this year.
She has to compete in about four more international competitions to gain Olympic ranking points and international fighting experience. Due to funding difficulties, it is tough to get into more camps and competitions but she has received help from the Federation, Tuks University and personal sponsors but it can only get her so far.
Whitebooi welcomes donations and sponsorship, if anyone would like to help sponsor a competition or camp or send donations of small items like a judo suit or strapping please contact: Michaela Whitebooi [email protected]
She also mentioned her support system, “To my family, we may be far apart, but your love and support is what keeps me pushing to strive to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be.”
Photo 1 Caption: South African judoka, Michaela Whitebooi, aims to make her Olympic dreams a reality by qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. @TeamSA2020 (Twitter)