“This gold medal is to thank my mom and my coach for all their support,” said Whitebooi afterwards. “While I was listening to music to psyche myself up before the final, the only two people in my mind were my mom, Minnie, and my coach, Nikola Filipov. I realised that I owe them both so much because it was their belief in my abilities that put me on the verge of making one of my goals a reality.”
Before the Championships Whitebooi explained that for her, judo is not only a means to improve her own life but also that of her mom.
“When my dad passed away my mom had to take over the roles of both parents. It was a challenge to her then and it still is. She always does her best to provide for us. In spite of not having a proper job, she finds a way to put food on the table and manages to push through even when times are tough. I love judo but with this love comes a responsibility to work hard to get somewhere,” the Tuks/HPC judoka said.
Whitebooi beat Fatima El Qorachi in the final. According to her the Moroccan was a tough opponent.
“She was very aggressive throughout the fight and I had to keep my wits about me. I think it helped that I was not quite as nervous as I usually am before a fight. I still find it hard to describe my feelings the moment I knew that I had won. When I realised that all my hard work and sacrifices had at long last paid off, I couldn’t hold back my tears. Even when I was on the podium to receive my medal, the tears of joy just kept flowing. To be the best in Africa is definitely a dream come true.”
Filipov was quick to praise Whitebooi. “Well done to the most dedicated judo player I know. Your gold medal and Africa title make us so proud,” said Filipov. Courtney Read from Tuks Sport High School won a bronze medal in the under-70kg in Sharm Elsheikh.
Filipov, who is coaching at Tuks/HPC, ismaking a difference in South African judo.
At the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last year, Zack Piontek won a gold medal in the under-90kg category, Jacques van Zyl won bronze in the under-73kg category and Ruan Snyman silver in the under-100kg category. This year Piontek won a silver medal at the African senior championships.