UFH - Karatekas impress 2

The University of Fort Hare’s young karatekas may have gone into the Madibaz semi-contact karate tournament as outsiders, but their final medal count told a very different story.

Of the 10 won by UFH at Mandela University in Gqeberha last weekend, eight – including a gold and silver – went to athletes taking part in their first-ever competitive event.

Fort Hare finished third overall, a result that astounded all and sundry considering the Alice-based institution was largely using the tournament to give its rookies experience.

While Siphe Kamnqa (two bronze) and Linda Mqambeli (one silver, two bronze) dazzled in their first outing, it was 22-year-old debutant Afika Dyubhele who shone brightest.

Her tournament haul of one gold and two bronze medals spoke volumes about her talents as a karateka, especially since she only joined the Fort Hare set-up last year.

Even more astonishing is that until her karate journey kicked off in August, she had not taken part in any other sport – even during her school years at Ngqeleni near Mthatha.

“I am very proud of myself. I didn’t get medals at school. When I first started karate at Fort Hare, I said I must now get medals,” the second-year Bachelor of Arts student said.

Dyubhele makes no secret of the fact that the tough training regimen immediately made her want to quit when she first joined the programme.

UFH - Karatekas impress 2

Fort Hare’s young karatekas, from left, Linda Mqambeli, Siphe Kamnqa and gold medallist Afika Dyubhele impressed at the Madibaz semi-contact karate tournament in Gqeberha last weekend. Photo: Supplied

Even warm-ups had been a struggle, she recalled the pain she endured running up the steps of the sports complex in Alice.

“I doubted myself for even coming because of the pain.

“But then my sempai (Anele Gqumayo) called and told me, ‘The pain you feel right now will be removed by training more, not quitting’.

“The support from my instructors is the thing that has made me the person I am today to win those medals.”

In the last few months of 2023, Dyubhele truly started to believe in her ability.

She recalled a ceremony where the best karatekas at the club had been awarded certificates. When she beat one of these recognised recipients in a match, she knew she could do well in the sport.

In December, she was even double-graded, moving straight from white to orange belt.

Her confidence was given a further boost when she took a point off a much-feared Madibaz karateka who had fought overseas. Though she lost the fight 1-3, she realised that she had what it took to compete at a high level.

In fact, she even asked if the fight could continue.

“I felt there was something more I could do against this star,” Dyubhele explained.

Though her family back home know about her karate and support her, they are still unaware of her achievements in Nelson Mandela Bay.

“I want to surprise them in person when I go home. I want to show them the medals I won at the tournament.”

The remainder of Fort Hare’s 10 medals came courtesy of Gqumayo (bronze) and Philani Momoti (bronze).