Stars of the Galaxy: Judoka Sensei Letlhogile Tsheko
By KAGISO FOX PHATSIMO
Sensei Letlhogile Tshenolo Tsheko is a self-driven Judoka, who has won multiple medals in the sport, and he’s still going strong. The 19-year-old hyperactive young man is full of life and is intent on making the most of it. Although he has made a mark in Judo, he has tried and excelled in many other sports in the last ten years. He’s a jack of many trades, and a master of some.
As a little boy, he tried swimming, football, softball, rugby and athletics. While most of his peers confined themselves to a single sport, he wanted to do more. He was actually good at swimming and when he was called on to trim down on his activities, he opted to remain with it, plus judo.
So where does this self-driven athlete source his inspiration? It’s difficult enough for a Motswana kid to pursue studies, sport, and have to deal with the demands at home all at once. What’s the source of Letlhogile’s power? To find out, “Stars of the Galaxy” visited him at his home in Tlokweng to learn more about his love for sports.
“You have played so many sports in your lifetime. Where will we begin?” I asked him as he came to greet me at the door. Even he didn’t know where to start. He smiled and said, “Judo. That’s my first love,” he said, as he led me to his room.
Letlhogile’s room portrays his passion for sports. He has posters of himself in action on the wall, inspirational quotes by the bedside, and most importantly a mass of the medals and trophies he has won over the years. He has swimming accolades, Judo awards, and rugby trophies on display. His room is a picture that confirms his stardom.
“Growing up, I was a hyperactive little boy. When I discovered Judo in Standard 3, I instantly fell in love with it. It was exactly what I needed. The adrenaline rush, the physical combat, and the fights gave me purpose,” said the black belt.
Since developing a love for Judo at Babobab Primary School in Gaborone in 2007, Letlhogile has come a long way. He has represented Botswana in regional and international events countless times. Not only that, he has made it a habit of bringing back medals each time he travels.
His medal and trophy cabinet hardly has space for more. He has won nine gold medals, one silver and one bronze in local competitions, including one gold, two silver medals and two bronze medals in international competitions. Those are only the Judo accolades he can remember. In reality, he has racked up more.
Letlhogile has also excelled in rugby over the past three years. He joined the school team at Livingston Kolobeng College, LKC, in Gaborone in 2013 after his friends convinced him to. He learned fast and soon became a regular in the team that has been dominating the Botswana Integrated Sports Association,, BISA, competitions for a while.
“Before I enrolled at LKC, rugby was just another sport. I never considered it. I had to drop swimming because the pool was small and they only held classes, not competitions,” he began explaining how he joined the LKC Jaguars.
“The Jaguars coach spotted me at Judo training and asked me to join his team. I declined at first, but when most of my friends started training with the team I thought...let me follow. I was surprised at how fulfilling the game was, and more so, at how quickly I learned to play.”
And when the time came for him to answer the million dollar question of what drives him, he gave a unique and inspirational answer. Letlhogile does not rely on another person to push him, and he does not idolize any successful person. Instead, he draws his inspiration from within.
“I strive to be a better person all the time. I learn every day and try as hard as I can to make the most of my life. As an athlete, I want to achieve more and move up the ladder. I motivate myself. I train hard and put in the work,” he said.
“All my achievements and the recognition I have gained over time, all my success, it came as at cost. I had to sweat and shed tears in the process. But I never give up even when I’m swimming against the grain. I believe in myself, I motivate myself, and the medals follow,” he said.