South Africa’s upcoming mixed martial arts stars have embarked on another journey to fly the nation’s flag high and elevate their careers at this year’s IMMAF Youth World Championships.
Team South Africa departed from the OR Tambo Airport yesterday en route to Abu Dhabi today to compete on the world stage in the four-day tournament, running from August 2 to August 5 at the Mubadala Arena in Zayed Sports City.
There, 32 South Africans will pit their skills against hundreds of athletes from more than 46 nations as they chase gold, silver, and bronze while competing in different categories - 12 to 13-year-olds (Youth C), 14 to 15-year-olds (Youth B) and 16 to 17-year-olds (Youth A).
Last year, at the Youth Championships, four girls proudly flew the South African flag high. Nuha Shah won gold after winning her Youth B (48kg) division. Kaitlyn van Wyk (Youth B - 57 kg) and Kiara Willemse (Youth C - 48 kg) secured bronze medals in their respective divisions. Minette Kruger filled her bag with silver after coming second in the Featherweight division (65.8 kg).
All but one of those girls have returned for further honors this year. 15-year-old Shah returns to compete in the same category to defend her title. Van Wyk looks to improve on her bronze medal when she fights in the Youth A 56.7kg Flyweight division, while Kruger drops down to the Youth A 61kg Bantamweight division to chase gold.
TeamSA - headed up by coaches Charl van Tonder, Lyndall Sandenbergh, and Shane Carr, is filled with talented athletes, including Umar Edwards, Tofeeq Khan, Asangel Belu, and more, and Mixed Martial Arts South Africa’s senior coach and board member William Oberholzer is looking forward to TeamSA once again shining a strong light on the potential based in Mzansi.
“Building on the huge success of the IMMAF 2022 Youth Worlds - the 2023 edition promises to be even grander, with over 46 countries competing and a record number of athletes entering.
“IMMAF is the leading world body for amateur MMA, and MMASA is proud to be fielding our largest Youth Team to date - with 32 athletes entered across the various ages and weight divisions.
"We have medalists from 2022 returning and aiming to achieve the podium again.
"I am very pleased to see the positive growth of our sport at this important youth level. It is encouraging to see the systems and processes put in place over the years, bearing such quality fruit,” said Oberholzer.
The event takes place for the second year in Zayed Sports City as part of a three-year hosting rights agreement between the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation and the UAE Jiu-Jitsu and MMA Federation.
“The remarkable organizational success of last year’s IMMAF Youth World Championships, along with Abu Dhabi’s ongoing preparations to host the second and third editions of the event in 2023 and 2024, demonstrates the unwavering confidence in Abu Dhabi by the IMMAF.
"It also highlights Abu Dhabi’s exceptional organizational capabilities, which have resulted in a series of achievements,” said IMMAF President Kerrith Brown.
“Over the past two decades, Abu Dhabi has solidified its position as a leading destination for martial arts events by hosting numerous prestigious tournaments across various disciplines. These tournaments have attracted thousands of renowned athletes, stars, and influential figures from around the world,” added Brown.