Unelle Snyman, one of Africa’s leading judokas, has reached a crossroads in her career as she ponders Olympic Games participation, which is only likely to happen in just over a year’s time.
Unelle Snyman, one of Africa’s leading judokas, has reached a crossroads in her career as she ponders Olympic Games participation, which is only likely to happen in just over a year’s time.

Postponement gives judo’s Snyman a rethink

By Gibbs Time of article published May 2, 2020

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Unelle Snyman, one of Africa’s leading judokas, has reached a crossroads in her career as she ponders Olympic Games participation, which is only likely to happen in just over a year’s time.

During the past few years, Snyman has been on top of her game on the continent, and last year bagged silver at the African Games, in Rabat, Morocco, and then gold at the African Open, in Dakar, Senegal.

She was on the verge of sealing qualification for the 2020 Olympic Games in the Under-78kg category, but the Morocco event was called off in March. It is hoped to stage the championships in December.

However, the unscheduled break has caused Snyman to think about where her career might take her, and about life generally. Despite the demanding training schedules, she is studying for a sports psychology degree.

“I consider myself a professional sportswoman.

“Thanks to Tuks (University of Pretoria) and Judo South Africa, I can do so,” said Snyman.

“But at some stage, I will have to face up to reality. There is no real money to be made as a judoka anyway - not in South Africa. I fully realise there is a life outside of sport.

“It is not fair to be dependent on my parents and Tuks forever. I also don’t want to be.”

Snyman is not yet ready to give up her love-relationship with judo despite the uncertainty.

“I am lucky because a friend has built a well-equipped gym on a farm,” said Snyman, who is staying with a friend at a game lodge near Mossel Bay.

“So I have no excuse to be slack in training. Right now, I am training as if the African Championships is still happening (in June).

“We have however just been informed that it will only take place in December.

“The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics might still turn out to be a blessing in disguise. It gives me more time to train as well as think about to what to do with my life.”

Staying at the game lodge has also given Snyman a chance to experience nature and she had one notable experience after she came across a young nyala (antelope) which had been abandoned.

“We really tried saving it, but, unfortunately, it was in an awful condition,” said Snyman.

The lanky Snyman is also well-known on netball circles. About four years ago she counted among the promising players in South Africa. She played inter-provincial (for North Gauteng), Varsity Cup and the Brutal Fruit Series.

As a result of her netball prowess, she won a scholarship to the University of Pretoria and that prompted the use of a well-used refrain: netball’s loss is judo’s gain.

Independent on Saturday

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