PORT Elizabeth karate sensation Nkululeko Junior Apleni is on the verge of making history by becoming the first South African to defend the Japanese Shotokan Karate World Championship title at a tournament in Mexico City from July 21-22.
Apleni, 23, won the world championship crown and two gold medals and a bronze in Portimao, Portugal, in 2010. It will be the first time he is defending his title.
Zwide resident Apleni left the city this week to join the 25-member SA team in training in Pretoria.
He said yesterday he was well prepared. "This is my first international title and I’m physically and mentally fit to defend it with all I have. The competition has become even tougher and I’ve had to work hard.”
Apleni is the only karateka from the Eastern Cape who will represent South Africa at the tournament.
His father and trainer, Sicelo, said he would feel a sense of pride when his son carried the Nelson Mandela Bay and South Africa flag at the event.
"I saw his talent in 2002 when he went to fight in Germany as a 10-year-old and I knew that one day he will be a hero. We are confident he will defend his world championship title and we are very proud of his hard work.”