Two University of Fort Hare dancesport stars will represent South Africa at the 2024 World Professional Standard Championships after excelling at the nationals in North West.
While Wanzi Maxhobi and Lorenzo Swartbooi are no strangers to success, ending third on the 2023 professional standard rankings to qualify for national colours is the pinnacle of their glittering career so far.
They are the first from UFH’s dancesport programme to be chosen for their country.
“I feel excited. It’s so great,” Maxhobi said.
“We tried to work really hard. It was obviously challenging [at the nationals] but we went there with the intention of enjoying ourselves and we did.”
The couple were one of five from Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape team that lit up the championship dancefloor in Mahikeng at the weekend.
UFH coach and Team EC manager Thandisizwe Matyumza was thrilled that so many of his students did well at the competition.
Lubabalo Xabanisa and Nontando Tsheleza made it through to the Rising Stars final, just missing out on qualifying for next year’s elite championship category from which national teams are selected.
The big surprise of the competition was Axola Ximbi, who made it through to the semi-finals despite only being drafted into the team as a late replacement last Monday.
“I am very proud of Axola. It’s a big achievement in her first year, especially since she has not competed at this level before,” Matyumza said.
“I think our preparation helped her. Mental fitness is very important because the other couples are full of confidence.”
It went without saying that his pride extended to Maxhobi and Swartbooi for creating history.
While Matyumza has donned green and gold himself, no one from the university’s programme has emulated his achievement until now.
“This is what I always wanted,” he said.
“I told the dancers last year that in 2023 I wanted them to get their national colours and now Wanzi and Lorenzo have done it.”
The event was extremely tough as the Eastern Cape squad went head-to-head with other provincial teams as well as entrants from Botswana and Germany.
The team travelled to North West on Wednesday night, arriving mid-morning the next day.
While a long journey, Matyumza said the dancers were able to recuperate in time for the competition thanks to the swimming pool at their accommodation.
“Swimming helped them get rid of some of the tightness that had built up on the road.”
Seeing Maxhobi and Swartbooi scaling the heights they had would inspire their teammates to work even harder, Matyumza said.
“I’m really excited about what’s happened.”