Nelson Mandela University karate ace Gcobani Maxama said it was a dream come true when he was named the Madibaz Sportsman of the Year at last week’s gala awards function in Port Elizabeth.
The 27-year-old student, who is doing his postgraduate diploma in internal auditing, continued a strong family tradition in the sport by being crowned the All-Africa champion this year.
Introduced to the sport by his father, sensei Zolile Maxama, Gcobani followed in the footsteps of his brother Lwazi Finca, who was an instructor (sensei) at Mandela University from 2007 to 2009.
Gcobani, who is also a sensei, said his brother had inspired him to achieve as much as he could.
“He 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 do it and to make our family proud,” he recalled.
“So, to win this award is a big deal because it means I fulfilled my brother’s hopes.
“It definitely is a great feeling and I don’t think it has fully sunk in yet.”
There was further recognition for Maxama on the night when he received the Student Coach of the Year and Sports Personality of the Year awards.
Born in the village of Mangondini in the Amathole district, Maxama moved to eGompo in East London in 1999. Four years later he moved to Kwazakhele in Nelson Mandela Bay, where he currently resides.
He attended a number of primary schools before matriculating from Khwezi Lomso Comprehensive School in 2009.
Maxama’s earliest memories of karate are when he joined his father at training sessions in East London.
He had a shaky start to his career, but says he has never looked back.
“I lost my first fight of my first tournament and then I lost the second fight of my second event. But to me that was progress.
“I knew already 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 he saw karate more as a way of life than a sport as it opened opportunities for him and taught him some valuable life lessons.
“I have travelled the world through the sport, while it has taught me respect, patience and the ability to endure under any kind of pressure.
“Karate has shaped my character as it is both spiritual and physical. Being involved in karate means being involved in life.”
He paid tribute to two 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.”