An initiative which began with the formation of a Volkswagen South Africa (VWSA) judo team has grown into a successful community upliftment programme, with coach Sondisa Magajana recently taking two young hearing-impaired contestants to the Deaflympics in Bulgaria.
In 2006, quality assurance employee Magajana trained as a judo coach and started the VWSA judo team. Starting with only a few VWSA members, the team, comprising novices and experienced men and women, grew and began participating at provincial and national level.
The team now boasts 35 members, four of whom took top honours when they represented Eastern Province at the South African National Open Judo Championships in July, winning a gold medal for under-73kg senior men, a gold for under-66kg senior men, a silver for under-90kg senior men, and a bronze for under-81kg senior men.
DEDICATION AND PASSION
After starting the team at VWSA, Magajana realised that the dedication and passion of judo was something he wanted to impart to keen learners who were often side-lined in the sport.
In 2009 he started the Judo Institute for People with Special Needs, a move which earned him the Volunteer of the Year accolade at the SA Sports Awards last year for his involvement in the community.
The initiative has been encouraged by VWSA. Magajana has been allowed time off work to train students and accompany them to various training and championship events, where they have often brought home top honours.
BREAKING NEW GROUND
“I’ve always wanted to break new ground. My plan was to include all disabilities, because in sport these are people that have been marginalised. I had a strong belief that I could make a difference in their lives,” Magajana said in a statement on Tuesday.
The schools which are benefiting from his training include Khanyisa School for the Blind (KwaDwesi), Reuben Birin School for the Deaf (Missionvale), Lonwabo School for the physically challenged (Missionvale), Cape Recife (Summerstrand), Northern Lights (Cotswold) and outside Nelson Mandela Bay, Efata School for Blind and Deaf (Mthatha).
After taking pupils to participate in the Nedbank National Championships for the Physically Disabled, presented by the South African Sports Association for Physically Disabled (SASAPD), earlier this year, Magajana was asked to accompany South Africa’s deaf team as its coach at the Deaflympics in Bulgaria, which ended in early August.
‘A GREAT HONOUR’
“I have put a lot of work into coaching physically and hearing impaired pupils, so being given this opportunity was a great honour,” he said on his return.
Two of his hearing impaired pupils from Uitenhage, 17-year-old Priscilla Lawrence and Siviwe Nkwinti, also 17, accompanied Magajana to Sophia, Bulgaria. Both are ranked number one in their respective weight categories on the provincial judo log for able-bodied contestants.
Lawrence returned with a sixth place in the women under-63kg division, while Nkwinti fought bravely despite being injured during training. He was knocked out of the competition after the first round.
“The pupils I train are as good as any able-bodied contestants. They take part in able-bodied competitions and excel,” said Magajana, who has already set his sights on taking a “team to be reckoned with” to the 2017 Deaflympics in Turkey.
“During the Deaflympics, we trained with French, Iranian and Argentinian contestants, so there was a great platform for skills transfer among the different teams.”
Magajana will head to The Netherlands in December with the national deaf judo team for an international training camp ahead of the 2014 European Open Judo Championship.
Next on the cards for the VWSA team is a trip for National Championship under- 73kg gold medallist Daludumo Makalima (of the Material Recovery division) to Abu Dhabi in November as part of the South African judo team.