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A legend living the life of an unsung hero

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He has set world records no one will ever break. He is eligible to make Zimbabwe host a world tournament that can attract more than 120 countries — a boon for the country’s tourism and a bonus for its image.

By Kamurai Mudzingwa

The man is none other than Samson Muripo, the first African to win a world karate championship title.

Muripo scooped gold in Japan in 2009 during the first International Karate Organisation Kyokushinkaikan First World Karate Tournament in Tokyo, after defeating Japanese champion Kikuyama Yasumichi in the final within three minutes.

And the Kyokushi style karate is not for petty fights, it is a full  contact knockdown style.

This feat put Zimbabwe and Africa on the world map as a force to reckon with.

After that victory, Zimbabwe was ranked the third best country in karate after Japan and Russia.

“Zimbabwe, because of my achievements on the world stage, can host a world tournament that attracts more than 120 member countries of the kyokushin style. You can imagine what that can do for the tourism industry,” said Muripo.

“The problem is that for me to organise such an important world event, I need support from the government, but so far that support seems not to be there. Even my high achievements have not been recognised adequately.”

Currently, Muripo is preparing to lead a team of Zimbabwe’s great kyokushin karatekas, that include George Mutambu, Mugove Muhambi, Tawanda Mufundisi and Kudakwashe Chitiyo, among others, to a World Karate Tournament in Bulgaria on October 5.

He will lead another team to China for another World Kyokushin Union tournament on October 25.

Muripo is feared so much internationally that dirty tactics, including poisoning, have been employed against him.

In July 2011, during the defence of his world title, Muripo, together with his mentor, South African Shihan Bas van Stenis, was poisoned. The poison nearly claimed his life and left scars in his face.

He defied the odds and fought his way into the final of the world tournament where he lost through a controversial decision.

“It is amazing how I am recognised and respected in countries such as Japan and not in my home country,” he said.

“Many on the international scene think I am rich because of the feats that I have achieved in the sport, but that is not so.

“We are preparing for crucial world tournaments that need funding. We rely on well-wishers and corporates like Arosume Properties that have been behind our achievements. The government does not seem to recognise the value of sportspeople in the country. We would love any sponsorship from those who want to see Zimbabwe shining on the global stage.”

Muripo is also Africa’s kyokushin karate champion, a deed he achieved in South Africa during the All-Africa Kyokushin Karate Championships in October 2006.

Muripo has more than 10 recognised international trophies and medals under his belt, making him the undisputed best karateka in Zimbabwe and Africa.

The athlete, who holds a Fourth Dan Black Belt, bemoans the government’s attitude towards sports that have made the country proud such as karate.

“The government does not want to accord karate the same status as tennis, football and cricket among others, yet we have done better than all those disciplines. We brought the world title home, who else has done that?” quizzed the humble sportsperson.

“When we win on the world stage they do not say, ‘No. 1 is Samson Muripo’, they say ‘No 1 goes to Zimbabwe’”, he said with a laugh.

“After all, these achievements are through our own sweat. Athletes have to train, arrange their upkeep and raise funds to participate in international tournaments and the country gets the credit,” he said.

“As a result, most potential world champions from this country drop out of competitions due to lack of resources.”

Muripo has groomed a lot of karatekas, both in the junior and senior categories who have done wonders for the nation by winning in international tournaments.

Despite various setbacks and lack of recognition, life goes on for Muripo, Zimbabwe’s own legendary sportsperson, who lives the life of an unsung hero.

“I will use the gift God gave me for the benefit of the country and for the benefit of others.

“Who knows what the future holds for us? I expect to explode and do well in the forthcoming international tournaments so that Zimbabwe stays where it should —among the best.”

FACT FILE

  • 1st ever African World Karate Champion
  • Defeated Spanish, Kazakhstan, German, Australian and Japanese champions in the Men’s Middle Weight Category at the 1st World Cup Open Karate Tournament in Osaka, Japan, June 2009
  • Best Technical Prize of the 1st World Cup Open Karate Tournament, Osaka, Japan, June 2009.
  • Silver Medallist at the Higashi Nippon International Kyokushin Karate-do Senshukentaikai Open Weight Tournament in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, April 2010
  • Silver Medallist in the Middleweight category of the 2nd World Cup Open Kyokushinkai Karate Tournament, Astana, Kazakhstan, July 2011.
  • Scooped the Fighting Spirit Award of the 2nd World Cup Open Kyokushinkai Karate Tournament in Astana, Kazakhstan, July 2011.
  • Silver Medallist in the Men’s Open of the 5th Len Barnes Memorial International Karate Tournament, June 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Scooped the Most Fighting Spirit Award of the 5th Len Barnes Memorial International Karate Tournament, June 2013, Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Gold Medallist in the Ashihara International Full Contact Karate Open Championships in Cape Town, August, 2008.
  • Reached the last 16 of the Mens Open in the 3rd Kyokushin Union Cup World Karate Tournament, November 2012, Toyama City, Japan.
  • Participated in the 1st Kyokushinkan World Karate Championships in Moscow, Russia, representing Zimbabwe in the middleweight (under 80kg) men’s category, September 2005.
  • Gold Medallist in the All Africa Kyokushin Karate championships in the senior men under 80kg, Cape Town, Republic of South Africa, October 2006.
  • Gold Medallist in the Last Man Standing, Knock out Karate Tournament in the Open Weight Category Cape Town, April 2008.
  • Gold Medallist in the Karate South Africa All Style Full Contact Championships in the Middleweight- men’s category, September 2008.
  • Gold Medallist in the Men’s Open Weight Category of the Southern Africa Kyokushin Union Karate Championships, Thokoza, Johannesburg, South Africa, May 2012.
  • Silver Medallist at the Annual Champion of Champions Full Contact Kyokushin Karate Tournament in the Senior Men Open Weight category, Harare, Zimbabwe December 2005.
  • Zimbabwe 2009 Sportsman and Sportsperson of the Year.
  • Graded to 4th DAN (YONDAN) BLACK BELT, Harare FEB 2012.
  • Voted Zimbabwe Kyokushin Karate Icon — Arosume Properties Kyokushin Karate Merit Awards for 2010, Harare Zimbabwe.
  • Voted 2011 Best International Karateka – Arosume Properties Kyokushin Karate Merit Awards, Harare, Zimbabwe.
  • Awarded International Kyokushinkaikan Karate License by the General Director of the IKO. KYOKUSHINKAIKAN: All-Japan Kyokushin Union, Shihan Shigeru Tabata — 7th Dan in Japan, September 2006.

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