Mpho Madi is a freestyle wrestler who represented South Africa at Commonwealth Games twice, first in India 2010 and Scotland in 2014 where she brought back a bronze medal in the 53kg division. She was nominated as Sports Woman of the Year at the National Sports Awards in 2014, thus becoming the first martial arts athlete to be nominated at this prestigious event. Obzeva.co.za chats to her as she prepares for the up-coming season starting in February 2015.
Obzeva.co.za: Let’s talk a bit about your background, family and your fondest memory of growing up in your hometown.
MM Answer: My background. I was born in Ermelo and directly after birth I was moved to a place of safety in Benoni called van Ryn. Then when I was two years old, I was adopted by the Madi family but that did not go so well. I was then removed by social workers and taken back to van Ryn and then was moved to KIDS HAVEN at age 10 in 2000. So I grew up in Benoni, nothing really special about it.
Obzeva.co.za – well you do know Benoni, produced Charlize Theron right? If we include you, that makes Benoni special.
Obzeva.co.za: What attracted you to the sport of wrestling?
MM Answer: The Benoni Wrestling coach came to the children’s home to ask if there were any kids who would be interested to do wrestling, then at first a few boys went. Then he (coach) came back and asked if there were any girls who would want to join. At first I didn’t go but a friend of mine went and when she came back she just said “it is too difficult.” So I decided to go try it out. I went and enjoyed every moment of it, training, socializing and competition.
Obzeva.co.za: You are a freestyle wrestler; explain to us a little bit about the sport of wrestling. What are the different formats of the sport?
MM Answer: There are two styles in wrestling, Greco Roman and Freestyle. Women wrestlers can only participate in Freestyle, while men can choose between the two. The ultimate goal is to throw and pin your opponent to the mat which result in an immediate win. Greco Roman allows the use of the wrestler’s or his opponent legs in offense and defense.
Obzeva.co.za: Let’s talk about the challenges in the sport. What would you say are some of the difficulties people at your level of the game experience the most?
MM Answer: The first challenge is just getting to training. People at my level are either studying or working, and so to juggle both is very difficult. Especially because training normally starts at 18h00 or national training will normally starts at 19h00. You find that guys finish work at 17h00 or even those that finish at 18h00tend to struggle to make it to training on time. Secondly when there are competition we need to travel overseas, we first have to pay for our tour which can cost at least R30 000, so if you can’t find the money via sponsors then there’s no way that you can go participate.
Obzeva.co.za: Talk to us about your last trip to the Commonwealth Games in Scotland. How did you perform?
MM Answer: Commonwealth Games is the highlight of my wrestling career so far. The Games were so well organized and everything was in order. The competition was very tough as all the Commonwealth countries brought their best athletes to the Games. I wrestled India in my first bout and lost by points and I was so disappointed because I knew that I was better than her. All the pressure and excitement came over me and unfortunately I lost that match. The India girl then defeated Scotland and that made me go through to the bronze medal match against Scotland. I won that match and was happy to receive that medal.
Obzeva.co.za: You have represented South Africa in the Commonwealth Games both in India (2010) and Scotland (2014). How did both experiences compare for you?
MM Answer: I found Scotland to be a better place to compete, felt more at home there than what I did when I was in India during the 2010 Games. In India, we were always in the athlete village and we couldn’t get a breather. It was a good experience though. We brought back only 3medals as opposed to 4 medals we brought back from Scotland.
Obzeva.co.za: You were nominated as “Sports Woman of the Year” at the National Sports Awards. What does the nomination mean for you as an athlete?
MM Answer: The nomination came as a surprise to me. I mean it has never happened in South Africa that they nominate martial sports athletes at the awards. It was a first. It meant so much to me especially with exposure. I think the media has help a lot during and after the awards season. More people know now who Mpho is and what wrestling is all about.
Obzeva.co.za: I saw you looked amazing at the awards, tell us about your outfit. And who put it together?
MM Answer: Thanks to the BAKWENA PLATINUM CORRIDOR CONCESSIONAIRE, they sponsored me with a dress and then shoes where a gift from my Mum, a friend of mine did my hair – all in a space of 4hrs.
Obzeva.co.za: As a young woman in South Africa, how do you think the sport of wrestling has helped you in other areas of your life?
MM Answer: Wrestling has helped me with a lot especially when I was at the children’s home, and there one went through many challenges. But with wrestling there’s a saying that is always in my mind that says “once you have wrestled, everything in life is easy.” I can now say I can defend myself knowing a few self-defence moves. This world that we live in is very cruel with all the raping and killing. So anyone who will want to try his manga manga business will then be sorry.
Obzeva.co.za: What do you think needs to be done to promote wrestling as a sport in South African?
MM Answer: The first key would be exposure with the media that will help a lot.
Obzeva.co.za: I understand that you are one of the people who are addicted to that game “The Tribez.” Tell us what you love so much about that game.
MM Answer: Hahaha I do love that game, I got addicted to it as soon as I downloaded it. The fact that you get to build your own place, and farm and to destroy the cave men! That’s so much fun. Oh and the patience that you have to have when gathering money and food. It can take up to two weeks to buy a new place. But now that my iPad broke, I am a bit low on it until I can get it is fixed.
Obzeva.co.za: What is your most favourite movie of all time?
MM Answer: The karate kid played by Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan, Taken 1, but most recently – Equaliser
Obzeva.co.za: What song in your opinion should be SA’s 2014 song of the year?
MM Answer: I am not so big on music so I have no clue
Obzeva.co.za: Have you started with your pre-season training?
MM Answer: Yes I have been in the gym and on the mat already. I got 2 weeks holiday during the X-mas and New Year’s period so I was I’m on inactive rest, but started training soon after.
Obzeva.co.za: When will you be competing next?
MM Answer: My first competition is on the 28th of February. That’s the grading/trials for the national team
Obzeva.co.za: What are your personal targets for 2015?
MM Answer: My target is to medal at the African Senior Championship in May. At least hit top 8 at World Championship in September and also to medal at the All Africa Games.
Obzeva.co.za: How can people follow or contact you for more information about the sport?
MM Answer: I am on twitter @mpho150
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