PE judoka lives dream at champs

Lithemba, 16, brings home bronze medal from tournament in Burundi

Judo star Lithemba Magajana is congratulated by his mother Nomphumelelo after returning home from Burundi
Judo star Lithemba Magajana is congratulated by his mother Nomphumelelo after returning home from Burundi
Image: Fredlin Adriaan

Top South Africa judoka Lithemba Magajana, 16, managed to tick an item off his bucket list when he achieved a bronze medal at the African Judo Cadet Championships in Burundi at the weekend. Arriving back in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday evening, Lithemba said it was a dream come true to place third at his first championships after competing against some of the best judoka on the continent.

“It was a great experience, I learnt a great deal while out there, picking up various tips and tricks from the various judoka at the championships.

“With it being my first time representing South Africa, I am proud of what I have achieved and hope this will be a stepping stone to more in future,” he said.

The championships, held from May 9 to 14, featured about 100 competitors from 15 countries.

Competing in the under 60kg weight class, Lithemba took to the mat in four fights, winning the opening two before losing the third bout, and this saw him having to compete for the bronze medal.

“I would say the best part of the championships for me was winning my first fight and this being my first taste of international competition, that made it extra special for me,” he said. “I can only look forward now and try to go for the top spot next time.”

Having started the sport in 2012, Lithemba credits his successes to a host of individuals, including his father Mzwandile, his coach Monwabisi Daniels and uncle Sondisa Magajana, with whom Lithemba also trains.
He said the sport had taught him that “hard work and discipline was the best way of reaching your dreams”.

“I was inspired by my dad, who first introduced me to the sport, at first it was only for self-defence purposes.

“But then I started enjoying it, and decided to take it further, and I could not be more happy with what I have achieved so far,” he said.

Sondisa said he was proud of the achievement and hoped that Lithemba would continue to do well in the sport.

Lithemba has had a majority of his training under the guidance of Daniels, and credits the coach with adding a new dimension to his style.

“It is a massive achievement for him, and it is something he will cherish for a long time,” Daniels said.

“I have seen a lot of improvement in his fighting style over the last few years. Previously, he was more attack-minded than defensive, so I tried to help him incorporate that into his training.”

Lithemba’s focus will now shift to preparation for the national judo championships to be held in the metro next month.