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Kick-start to international sporting career

Lifestyle Section - Sport

Kirsten in her training gear

Judo is not generally a sport that attracts women, but Grade 9 Rhenish pupil, Kir-sten van der Walt has not only been doing judo for the last six years but early next year will be jetting off to compete in the under-20’s team at the Commonwealth Games in Singapore, which takes place from Friday January 8 to Tuesday January 12.

At the tender age of 15, this is not the first time she has been overseas; in August this year she represented South Africa at the Youth World Games in Budapest, Hungary, and received her nat-ional cadet colours.
Why judo?

Kirsten answers without hesitation: “I love the competition. Judo also teaches you to behave honourably and cultivates a strong sense of discipline and work ethic.”
While she was in her school’s swimming and athletics team last year, she gave it up to dedicate her extra-mural time entirely to judo this year.

And 2009 appears to have been a watershed year as the honours have been flying as fast as a harai goshi or a sweeping hip throw. Not only was she selected as the best junior judoka for the Boland region for 2009; but she won a gold medal at the SA closed competition held earlier this year in Potchefstroom, and has won gold or silver at national competitions since 2006.

Last month she was one of only three nominees to be selected as the most promising sportswoman at the Boland Sports Awards held by the Boland Sports Council and Boland Regional Office Sport and Recreation Western Cape. All sports disciplines practised in the Boland and Overberg region are eligible for nomination – from swimming to chess. While she never won the award it was a great honour to be nominated.

Kirsten was not invited to the Commonwealth Games trials, be-cause she is 15 and would have to fight under 20. Her sensei, Gert Gouws, believing she had the ability to compete, entered her as wild card. She won, beating the SA under 19.52kg champion, which led to her inclusion in the team to Singapore.

She has been awarded national colours for the second time this year. Forty-six South Africans will pit their skills against competitors from all over the world in this form of martial arts that depends as much on technique as physical strength, agility and strength of mind.

Kirsten admits she’s quite nervous about it all and says she’s realistic about her expectations. “I’m going for a medal but international competition is radically different to national competition. It’s a great opportunity for me and our team to gain experience. In Hungary, I met for the first time, judoka that train six days a week, and attend sports schools dedicated to training judoka from a young age,” she says.

As the countdown begins, she’s practising intensively in and out of her club. Practice sessions are being held three to four times a week, and when she’s not at the club she jogs every day with her fellow competitor Gert Gouws junior, who is also be part of the team.

Her sensei has designed a special training programme for these two judoka, which will have them training intensively until they leave South Africa. Kirsten is looking forward to competing, although the family needs sponsorship to help with the flight and accommodation costs.

Whatever happens in Singapore next year, one thing is certain: Kirsten is intent on reaching the top in judo and when she leaves school, she is determined to study sports science, make judo her full time career and open a judo club, so that others can follow in her path.

If you can help with sponsorship, contact Kirsten’s mother Carol on 083 556 5202 or email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Written by Orielle Berry You are reading Kick-start to international sporting career articles

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