WATCH | SA's top fencer gets her chance but funding for the sport remains a challenge

2020-03-04 12:34

While the coach behind South Africa's number one woman sabre fencer is excited that she will get an opportunity to go to the Olympics qualifier in Cairo, Egypt in April, he concedes that funding remains a big challenge in the country.

"Nomvula Mbatha is really the best sabre fencer in the country and she has been a national champion for many years," Dr Gennady Tyshler told News24 at a training session in Randburg on Tuesday.

"Unfortunately, what I think is that a lot of sports in South Africa have [funding problems] and without help, she would probably not ever be able to go to the qualifying tournament."

Tyshler is the SA national coach and president of the International Fencing Federation Coaching Council.

WATCH | #1 ranked South African fencer loses out on Olympics due to lack of funding

On Tuesday, Vodacom announced it would be supporting the national champion financially in her bid to qualify for the Olympics.

"She has a chance to qualify. This sport is interesting...anybody can win, but we are hoping for a medal – gold, silver or bronze – that will add to her portfolio in the future," he said.

The funding opportunity came after News24 reported in December last year that although the young talent ended 2019 on a winning note, she would not be able to showcase her abilities on the world stage due to a lack of funding.

After the story went viral, interested potential funders came forward, including cellular giant Vodacom.

READ: FEEL GOOD | #1 ranked South African fencer secures funding to compete on the international stage

Tyshler explained that it was difficult for South Africa to compete with other African countries – whom he chose not to name – who receive millions of dollars for fencing.

"Unfortunately, we do not have much money and support for this sport in South Africa. For example, if we can say an African country X – they received $1m for Olympic qualification in fencing and another country received half a million dollars – it's very difficult for us to compete with that," he explained.

Mbatha says she has been training hard – up to six times a week – since she received the news.

READ | Fencer makes US history, wears hijab in Olympics

"I am just hoping to come back with a medal. I am so excited that I get to compete," she told News24.

The champion, who belongs to the Soweto Fencing Club, has been fencing since 2012 and has remained undefeated in the various stages of the sabre fencing category from 2015 to date.

For the last two years, she was undefeated in the senior female sabre fencing category.

Vodacom will support Mbatha financially to travel to the Olympic qualifier in Cairo this April, as well as the coaching sessions she needs to prepare for this qualifier and the new kit she requires.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  feel good  |  sport

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