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Gqeberha-born Whitebooi lands gold as judo, gymnastics and bowls join medal party

Michaela Whitebooi in action during the women’s judo 48kg semifinal at Coventry Arena on day four of the 2022 Commonwealth Games on Monday
Michaela Whitebooi in action during the women’s judo 48kg semifinal at Coventry Arena on day four of the 2022 Commonwealth Games on Monday

Gqeberha-born Michaela Whitebooi bagged gold in Birmingham on Monday as gymnastics, judo and lawn bowls joined Team SA’s medal party. 

Judoka Whitebooi, who started the sport at Booysen Park Judo Club and now lives in Pretoria, clinched the victory over India’s Shushila Devi Likmabam with a golden score Waza-ari after they’d ended without scoring in regulation time. 

Whitebooi, 25, swept into the final of the women’s 48kg competition to guarantee at least a silver medal. 

She beat Ashleigh-Anne Barnikel of Wales in the quarterfinals and then in the semifinals she dispensed of England’s Amy Platten, the bronze medallist at the European under-23 championships last year.

Whitebooi had lost in the opening round at the Tokyo Olympics, after being drawn to face the world champion, but that experience helped her. 

“I think Tokyo really helped me,” she said. “It was almost the same set-up, the competition venue. So when I stepped in here I remembered Tokyo so it really motivated me to win today.”

Likmabam was no easy opponent in the final, having taken silver at Glasgow 2014, but eight years later she returned to the same position on the podium. 

Whitebooi was shorter and resembled a terrier on the mat. “There’s a real difference between when I’m on the mat and when I’m off the mat. When I’m off the mat I’m obviously the girlie girl, but when I’m on the mat I really believe that I’m like a bulldog, I’m a monster and I really have to go and fight.”

Charne Griesel won bronze in the women’s 52kg contest a little later, forcing Marie Celine Baba Matia of Cameroon to submit and scoring an Ippon. 

Griesel’s journey to the podium started with a loss to Yasmin Javadian of Northern Ireland, but she beat Sofia Asvesta of Cyprus in the repechage to move into the bronze medal match. 

Gymnast Caitlin Rooskrantz scooped the country’s first ever medal for uneven bars, taking bronze on a tiebreak against England’s Ondine Achampong. 

Both had ended with totals of 13.433, but the South African was given the nod because her execution score of 7.633 was higher than her rival’s 7.433. Georgia-Mae Fenton of England won gold with a total 13.900 and Australia’s Georgia Godwin took silver on 13.500.

SA gymnasts have made the podium in other events at previous Games. 

And then lawn bowlers Johanna Snyman, Esme Kruger, Bridget Calitz and Thabelo Muvhango edged past Fiji on the final 15th end to win their semifinal and advance to the final on Tuesday. They too cannot do worse than a silver. 

Snyman and Kruger were part of the four that won silver at Gold Coast 2018. 

The para women’s pair of Desiree Levin and Victoria van der Merwe went down 12-19 to Australia in their semifinal, but they will have a crack at the podium in the bronze medal playoff against England on Wednesday. 

In other action, the men’s beach volleyball side of Grant Goldschmidt and Leo Williams went down 21-12 21-12 against Australia’s Chris McHugh and Paul Burnett. 

The SA hockey men downed Scotland 5-4 in a ding-dong crowd-thriller. Matthew Guise-Brown, Dayaan Cassiem, Taine Paton, Nicholas Spooner and Nqobile Ntuli all got onto the score sheet.

The netball side was comprehensively beaten by Australia, going down 49-74.​ — TimesLIVE




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