Madibaz judo ace Lwazi Mapitiza is ready to move up a gear when he competes in the African Championships for the sixth time in Dakar, Senegal, later this month.
The continental event has been moved to Senegal after originally being scheduled for Morocco and will take place from May 20 to 23.
The 30-year-old, who is studying sport management, is fresh from a bronze medal at last year’s championships, held in Madagascar in December.
He said he wanted to move up a level with plans to “change the colour of the medal” in Dakar.
“Last year was a milestone for me to have made it to the podium and since then I have been working hard to improve on that performance,” said the Nelson Mandela University student.
“The goal will always be to go for gold, but, at the very least, I want to make the podium again.
“I know my opponents will be ready to challenge for that as well, so I feel it’s going to be an interesting tournament.”
During his preparations, Mapitiza, who will fight in the under-100kg category, said he had introduced some changes to take the step to the next level.
“We have adopted a slightly different approach to my fights this year and hopefully that will work going forward.
“The training has been quite tricky because of the restrictions during the lockdown periods when the gyms were closed.
“Because of that, whereas previously I did a lot of strength work, this year I have focused more on my technique and it will be interesting to see how that works out.”
Whatever he is faced with, Mapitiza knows it will come down to mental strength.
“When fighters are close, this is the one thing that can differentiate you from the rest, so the mind is very important,” he said.
“I will work hard to make sure nothing disturbs my mental plan for the goals I have because any distraction will take away from your performance.”
Even though these are his sixth African championships, Mapitiza said he was delighted to be in the South African squad.
“Being selected for any national team is a huge honour and wearing the green and gold at a prestigious event like the African Championships really means a lot to me.”
The Madibaz star paid tribute to his trainers Mthobeli Vena and Andile Bailey for their hard work.
“I have to thank the Nelson Mandela Bay Judo Association for all the support they have given me and my senseis for all the training we have done together – they have really helped me.”
His aim this year is to compete in several international tournaments to try to earn points in the world rankings.
“My aim is to get into the top 30 and the reason for this is the dream to become an Olympian,” said Mapitiza.
“We are in a new Olympic cycle and the more tournaments you enter, the better for your experience and exposure.
“But that obviously comes with a high cost factor so I am looking for sponsors to support me in my ambitions. Any help I get will be greatly appreciated.”