Nokutula Banda: judo champion in the making
Published On February 1, 2014 » 3031 Views» By Administrator Times » Features
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Spectrum LogoIF anyone was born to be a judo champion, it was Nokutula Banda. Her natural attacking prowess, the ability to mix the throwing techniques and a special blend of tricks and strategies whenever she steps on the mat makes her one of the most exciting Judokas to watch.

Born and raised in Lusaka’s Chazanga Compound, the 16-year-old has transformed from just being a mere girl in her community to a national Judo ace, let alone a champion for that matter.

Nokutula is what she is today, thanks to the Olympic Youth development Centr e (OYDC), a high performance sports facility that was built with the aid of the International Olympic committee (IOC) and the Zambian Government.

The facility has drawn young people from all walks of life in the City who continue to take up sporting challenges from the time it opened doors to the public in 2010, and Nokutula is just one of them.

“I started Judo at the OYDC in 2010 and during that time, I faced a serious challenge from my grandmother Misozi Daka who used to discourage me from taking up the sport. Sometimes she could send me away from her home but I held on because I developed love for the sport,” she says.

Her steady emergence from obscurity to stardom is rare, but not absolutely uncommon. There have been other athletes who have burst onto the sports scene and, in most cases, they have reached greater heights.

Nokutula’s passion and love for Judo is visible in her eccentric character and mass antics that have always captivated the fans.

Most athletes in the country set their eyes on making an appearance at the World Olympic Games but only a few of them realise that dream.

Nokutula is just less than four years old in the world of Judo, but already she is on a highway to achieving greater things in the sport, first earning qualification for the forthcoming Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China.

She will fly the Zambia flag higher in the 57 kilogrammes women category.

The Judoka is determined to soldier on and conquer the world even though she bears the pain of losing her mother who past on last Month.

Nokutula, who is fighting off an emotional meltdown that has left her and her sister double orphans, has resolved to achieve the best out of Judo, a passion which has grown stronger.

When OYDC opened its doors in 2010, Nokutula initially enrolled in basketball and often times she would attend training sessions but could not make a mark.

At the same time, national Judo coach Moola Litimile was coordinator for a community project dubbed IPPON whose aim was to tap judo talent from the community members who reside around OYDC.

During one of the training sessions, Litimile spotted the traits of a potential Judo champion in Nokutula and he did not hesitate to advise to ditch basketball and take up Judo.

It worked and she joined Judo under the IPPON project that later gave birth to the IPPON Community Judo Club where she made an immediate impact.

“When I looked at her height the first time I saw her, I knew she could make a perfect Judoka and it was not difficult to convince her to take up judo from basketball which she initially joined. She excelled during training and local tournaments and I strongly believe she has a bright future because she is naturally a Judoka,” says her coach Litimile.

She became one of the most explosive and talented young judoka in the club, showcasing her enormous potential by dominating in her age group.

With the help of her coach Litimile, Nokutula began sharpening and perfecting her skills until she was ready to face strong opponents in competitive tournaments.

However, her real impact wouldn’t be felt until the 2012 Supreme Council for Sport in Africa (SCSA) Zone Six Under-20 Games that were held in Lusaka.

The sensational judoka is capable of beating anyone on her day and coach Litimile made no mistake to include Nokutula in the national team.

On her international debut, she showed what she is made of when she defeated her opponents to claim a gold medal for Zambia.

“The news of me winning a gold medal at the Zone Six games delighted my grandmother, she acknowledged that I made a wise decision to join Judo and that changed her perception towards the sport. She now encourages me to be the best and win,” Nokutula recalls.

The triumph brightened Nokutula’s path in the sport and she began glowing with confidence which was followed by a number of local victories that included the Samsung Under-19 Judo closed championship held in Lusaka.

Rising from a relatively low place, the pinnacle was in sight and her coach knew very well from the very first moment he introduced Judo to her that she would later carry Zambia’s hopes at the Olympics.

During the 2013 Africa Youth Championships in Algeria, Nokutula showcased a master piece performance that earned her a bronze medal in her second international competitive participation.

Zambia was given one qualification slot for the Nanjing Youth Olympics and Nokutula earned an automatic qualification by becoming third in the continental championship.

Now it is clear and undisputable, she was born a Judoka and credit goes to Litimile who was on hand to spot her Judo ability.

She was last month drafted in the national team that is currently in camp ahead of the 2014 African Youth judo championship to be held in Tunisia next month.

Perhaps most impressive for such a young athlete, Nokutula possesses a nimble mind for strategy and a champion’s resolve. Both are traits she utilised to good effect in the triumph at the Zone six Games and the Africa Youth championships.

Therein lies the secret to Nokutula’s success. With all the self belief and determination, she has remained remarkably on top of the game.

Her intelligence on the mat extends to school work. She was among the students that made it to Grade ten.

Nokutula is currently doing Grade 10 at Mandevu New Basic School in Lusaka under a full sponsorship of the OYDC management.

She does not compromise studies at the expense of judo and her ultimate target is to complete school with the best results.

Indeed it has been an inspiring road to success, and coach Litimile, her grandmother and the OYDC management, credit Nokutula’s level of consistency growing up with having enabled her to reach her potential, allowing her to excel on the mat while still staying close to her in times of need and within her comfort zone.

“I would like to thank the OYDC management, the Zambia Judo Association and my grandmother for the support they give me throughout my Judo career and I promise to work even harder so that I can fully achieve my potential,” she says.

Nokutula is undoubtedly an inspiration to a number of youths in the country. The sky is the limit.

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