Michaela Whitebooi confirms move to Botswana ahead of Paris 2024

Michaela Whitebooi confirms move to Botswana ahead of Paris 2024

South African judo athlete Michaela Whitebooi has officially relocated to Gaborone in Botswana as she takes her career to the next level.

The 28-year-old is already guaranteed a spot at the Olympic Games in Paris later this year because of her ranking on the continent, but stated that she wants to achieve qualification outright in the few months that remain.

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Speaking to SABC Sport, Whitebooi explained her decision to move.

''It was already in my head for a while to move, because it felt like I was getting stuck and needed a move. And I had a situation of where  I could do the coaching with a Cameroonian in Botswana, it was like I  was already training with him - it's just that he couldn't sit in my chair,'' said Whitebooi.

It was a little before November that Whitebooi began working with Sensei William Rene Matike-Ndoumbe, and this is how the idea of  leaving South Africa was planted.

''And that's what I am doing now, training with him in Botswana. I have been doing the up and down, but now I am staying there,'' added Whitebooi.

She says the initial stages of the move were tough, but similar to how she has to wrestle her way out of tricky situations, as a judoka - making it work was the only option.

''No, it was a very big shift, as I was saying - in the beginning it was very difficult to adjust because it is a different environment, different style of coaching and it's different players that I train with.

''But three months after training with them, I was like I really like being here, Botswana is growing on me to be honest,'' she said.

Whitebooi leaves next week to compete in the All Africa Games hosted by Ghana, and she is confident of impressing there.

She adds that would boost her chance of gaining direct qualification to the Olympic Games.

''With the Africa Championships coming up, God willing - the gold medal will come and I will be directly qualified. I want to make sure that I am set to go to Paris,’’ she concluded.