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Madibaz judo exponent Lwazi Mapitiza achieved a major career highlight when he returned with a bronze medal from the African Judo Championships in Madagascar in December.
The tournament, which took place in Antananarivo, saw the 30-year-old Nelson Mandela University sport management student competing in the under-100kg category.
The sport categorises competitors according to their weight and Mapitiza was slotted into the 91-100kg division.
He described his third place at the African champs, which he was attending for the fifth time, as the best achievement of his career.
"My goal going into the competition was to bring back a medal, hopefully a gold medal, but I was still happy to return with the bronze," said Mapitiza, who lives in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth.
"It was a really special moment and there was a feeling of relief at the end, as well as pride in achieving what I did.
"It was an improvement on the 2019 champs, where I came fifth overall, so I am definitely happy with the way things turned out."
His aim now is to keep working hard at his craft as his success in December has provided strong motivation.
"I want to stay on top of my game and to do that I am hoping to attend as many major competitions as I can.
"The way to keep improving is to enter the sorts of tournaments where I will meet opponents of a high calibre."
Mapitiza, who was educated at Ed-U-College, VP Grey Primary and Lawson Brown High, has his path mapped out for this year.
"Firstly, I have set my sights on trying to win a gold medal at the Africa champs, which will be held in April," he said.
"I would also love to attend at least two international Grand Prix tournaments, which would help me to prepare for the World Student Games in China in August."
His achievement in Madagascar was made possible, he said, by the support he received from Madibaz Sport.
"They sponsored the whole trip and there were a lot of challenging administrative conditions with which we had to comply.
"But with the help of my manager, Bernard Petersen, and sport director Yoliswa Lumka we managed to make it as smooth as possible.
"I would also like to thank my coach, Mthobeli Vena, for his contribution in so many ways, not least of all for handling all my sponsorship requests.
"He also attended the African champs as an official."
Petersen said they were proud of the way Mapitiza had put Madibaz on the sporting map.
"Lwazi is truly an iconic figure and he has excelled in everything that he has touched," said the Madibaz Sport judo manager.
"I can honestly say that his late father, Mthunzi Mapitiza, can be very proud of his achievements. He raised a phenomenal young man.
"Having known Lwazi since 2011, I have seen him grow into a model student from humble beginnings, nurtured by his father because his mother died when he was very young. That is not normally an easy path.
"He delivered a formidable performance at the judo champs and deserves all the accolades coming his way."

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