Local judokas eye exposure in SA Smart Deke

Ellina Mhlanga

Senior Sports Reporter 

JUDO Association of Zimbabwe president Smart Deke says their participation at the South African Championships to be held in Bloemfontein is vital for exposure and development of athletes.

The event scheduled for early July is one of the competitions in the region that local judokas look forward to.

Deke confirmed they will have a team competing at this year’s event and will be made up of juniors and seniors.

The competition will take off on July 2 with the Schools’ Novice and Advanced event before the Open Championships get underway on July 3 and run up to July 5. 

“Over the years, Zimbabwe have competed in this event and it is very important event for us because it’s a good platform that sharpens our athletes to prepare for major future events.

“It is open to athletes at different levels, from the novices, those who are inexperienced judokas up to experienced judokas. So, it is a very good platform for us and a very important event.

“So, this year as we are sending about 30 athletes. A mixture of the juniors who are 12-years-old and those who are 14-years-old. So, we are really looking forward to have a good team that is going to South Africa.

“This is why we are also trying to field kids that are Under-12 years old, to start being on that platform, whereby they go, they compete in South Africa because judo in South Africa is a bit well established. 

“So, we are trying to promote the sport and instil confidence in most of our judokas as well,” said Deke. 

Last year they had a team competing and managed to pick some medals in various categories.

Team selection for the championships is already underway.

With the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region Five Games rescheduled for next year in Namibia and the Youth Olympic Games to be staged in Senegal in 2026, Deke said they need to start preparing their athletes now. 

“We have already started the team selection process especially as we are targeting the Region Five Games in Namibia, which are targeting the Under-20 athletes.

“So as we are doing that, we are also including those who are 14- years-old and 15-years-old because they are our cadets under the judo categories. 

“We want those ones that are going to participate in Namibia to still be eligible to participate in the Youth Olympic Games in 2026, in Senegal. 

“And they will also still be able to qualify to take part in the Regional Games that are going to be in Maputo, in 2026. 

“So, we have already started the team selection as we do our ranking criteria, that’s what we use (for selection). We use our ranking system.

“So, this event (South African Championships) is very important for us. It’s a self-funded trip, whereby we open it up to everyone, we open it up to all athletes. 

“And we also have our athletes that we are selecting that we are trying by all means to push for sponsorship that they can be sponsored to go and participate in these events,” said Deke. 

Other events they are looking forward to including the Japanese Ambassador Cup to be held in August, in Harare.

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