Just a half a decade ago Martha Dama Baya was not conversant with any martial art game, leave alone judo.
It was not until 2017 when she first heard of the combat sports. This happened when she travelled from her Thoya-Oya Children’s orphanage home in Kilifi to watch a tournament at the Malindi Judo Club with her guardian Raymond Thoya.
After the thrilling competition, Dama fell in love with judo. She tightly embraced the game in December the same year and started learning the basics.
She grasped the concepts of the sport very quickly and soon was on the road to the battle arenas in search of honors.
Her star started to shine bright last year when she won the women’s national U-48kg category. She proceeded to Uganda in April this year where she became the East African champion in the same category.
Her prowess saw her roped into the national team currently plying trade for the country at the ongoing African Cadet and Junior Judo Championships at the Kasarani Indoor Arena in Nairobi.
The 16 year old Form 1 student at Marafiki Secondary School in Kilifi County represented Kenya in the women’s U-52kg, in the Kasarani showpiece, where she won bronze, her first ever continental medal.
“It’s my first time competing for my country continentally and I’m happy that I did my best, making a podium finish in Africa is not a joke as we have good judokas from Egypt, South Africa, Cameroon and Angola who are masters of the game,” Dama told Standard Sports.
On her way to the medal, Dama had a bye in the preliminaries. She met Fatim Toure of Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals who edged her with an Ippon after scoring two waza-aris.
Dama proceeded for the repechage where she again had a bye which qualified her for the third/ fourth place play-off against Anke Niemand of South Africa who shed edged with a waza-ari in the last 28 seconds to bag the bronze.
“I believe the preparation I had before this tournament won for me the bronze. I did a lot of road work at 5 am in the morning with my Kadaina Judo Club team-mates.
“I also mastered the techniques imparted to us by our coach, sensei James Mashobo, seriously which I was able to utilize during my contest with Anke,” she underlined.
In the next five years, Martha is dreaming to be the African champion in the category.
“After winning the bronze, I firmly believe this dream is not far away, it is very possible. I only need to develop power and endurance on my legs to accomplish this,’ she underlined.
The second born in a family of five now has her eyes firmly on the African Youth Games to be held in Egypt later in the year which she believes she has already qualified for by virtue of making it to the podium in the Cadet championships.
Cadet Team battles
Meanwhile, Kenya lost 4-1 to Cameroon in the Cadet Team contest at Kasarani on Friday evening. This saw the country finish fourth overall in the battle of supremacy by the countries.
Cameroon and South Africa, who edged Burundi with a similar margin, each won bronze. Egypt beat Angola 4-1 in the finals to bag gold as the latter settled for silver.
Selected African Cadet and Junior Judo Championships Medal standings
Country Gold Silver Bronze
1. Egypt 9 1 2
2. Angola 2 2 3
3. Senegal 1 2 0
4. Mozambique 1 0 1
5. South Africa 0 2 4
6. Kenya 0 2 3
7. Cameroon 0 3 1
8. Ivory Coast 0 1 1
9. Morocco 0 1 0