Fort Hare’s karatekas are on a mission to reaffirm their status as the country’s top team at the University Sports South Africa national tournament in East London this weekend.
The event takes place tomorrow and Sunday and the Alice outfit, under the guidance of senpai Thobela Ntsonkota, have one goal in mind – to keep the trophy in the Eastern Cape for another year.
Ntsonkota, who founded the club in 2017, is proud of the fact that the team racked up the most medals of any tertiary institution at last year’s competition and he is quietly confident that they can repeat that form.
The club has been on a steady road to greatness, with 2022 the best vintage yet. The 18-member team returned from the USSAs with a haul of 27 medals, the vast majority of which were gold.
An interesting statistic from that competition is that every member of the team – man and woman – won at least one medal.
To match that type of success, Ntsonkota said they would have to be clinical in all departments throughout the event. Most importantly, he wanted his charges to show the positive attitude and respect that are so vital in the sport.
After a week of toiling, the team finalised their preparations today. The training camp was used to go through drills aimed at fine-tuning both their kata and kumite skills as well as to reach peak fitness.
“We also worked on the self-development of each student and on creating a sense of unity within the team,” the senpai said.
Several of the newest members have never competed at a competition of this stature and were given individual attention to prepare them properly for the task at hand.
Although Ntsonkota would have preferred a lengthier camp, he said they did their best to prepare the karatekas.
“Luckily our team is filled with strong, dedicated students. It is heart-warming to see their achievements in recent years and the respect they show the sport.”
He made special mention of the backing from the university’s sports department.
“Our sports officer Mihlalikazi Rodolo and head of department Loyiso Lange are always available to check out that everything is in order. And Sharon Sompa, who is in the office, is always willing to assist.”
Ntsonkota also lauded the team’s brown-belt superstar, Anele Gqumayo, who often stepped in to assist with training and of whom is expected a lot this weekend.
First up at the USSA tournament will be the kata discipline, followed by kumite. It concludes with a gala dinner and awards presentation on Sunday evening.