Nelson Mandela University karate ace Gcobani Maxama was the recipient of multiple honours when Madibaz Sport held their gala awards function in Port Elizabeth last week.
The 27-year-old postgraduate student has had a stellar 2018 in the karate arena, being crowned the All-Africa champion this year.
He was named the varsity’s Sportsman of the Year, but was recognised in other areas as well, receiving the Student Coach of the Year and Sports Personality of the Year awards.
“Winning the student sport coach award was a surprise,” he said. “I am happy to have won this award for my students, the executive committee and the manager.
“They are the ones who made it possible for me to take this one home.
“I would also like to thank everyone who voted for me to win the Sport Personality of the Year. Their support is highly appreciated and never taken for granted.”
Introduced to the sport by his father, sensei Zolile Maxama, Gcobani said being the Sportsman of the Year fulfilled a dream.
“My brother, Lwazi Finca, was a student at Madibaz and he said to me if he did not win the Sportsman of the Year award in his time then it would be up to me to make it happen,” he recalled.
“So, to win this award is a big deal because it means I fulfilled my brother’s hopes.”
Maxama’s earliest memories of karate are training sessions he attended with his father in East London.
“He would also give me karate lessons in the garage of our home and I formally became involved in the sport in 1999,” he said.
He had a shaky start to his career, but says he has never looked back.
“I recall losing in the first fight of my first tournament. Then I also lost the second fight of my second, but to me that was progress.
“I knew already at that time that I was heading in the right direction and since then I have never placed outside the top three in South African tournaments.”
Maxama said his success this year was the result of the journey he had been on since taking up the sport.
“I dedicate this year to the hard work I have been putting in since I started karate in 1999.
“I can’t isolate this year from all the other years, so for me it’s really about the build-up to 2018.”
He is also in the fortunate position to give back to the sport.
“I do this by training and mentoring students at Madibaz karate,” said Maxama.
“I also assist with officiating in tournaments around Nelson Mandela Bay.”
His final words are for two of the men who have played critical roles in his development.
“My father introduced me to this way of life and he is still my mentor,” he said.
“In addition, my manager at Madibaz, Mr Bernard Petersen, has played an important role in developing my career.”