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Joe Mahit is a black belt Judoka and national Judo champion. When he is not traveling the world for training and competitions, he is back home here with us, at the Holiday Inn Resort Vanuatu, as part of our Resort Activities Team where guests get to engage with him every day. In the lead up to the Vanuatu 2017 Pacific Mini Games, we sat down and had a chat with Joe to learn more about this wonderful guy. We're all so excited for you Joe and wish you every success as you compete in front of your family and the home crowd.
Where were you born Joe? Tell us a bit about your family.
I was born at Vila Central Hospital, I call Vanuatu my home. I have a big family, six sisters and three brothers, and of course my parents. They play a huge
role in my sport and have been a solid support system since I started Judo. They encourage me and ask me about my training and up and coming fights, my injuries, right down to where I will travel to next for my training camps - I keep them in the loop about my training.
Tell us about yourself and how this journey started.
I am a black belt Judoka. I fight in the under 66kg category. I only picked up the sport when I was 17yrs old, so pretty late, but have not left it since. I have had the opportunity to travel the world with my sport and fought in two World Championships held in Brazil and Hungary. I attended my first Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 and my first Olympics in 2016 held in Brazil. I also hope to attend the next Olympics in Tokyo, Japan in 2020. I have been very fortunate to meet other judokas who share the same
I currently work at Holiday Inn Resort in Vanuatu but have taken a break since returning from my training camp in Hungary. I have had two competitions lined up since being back and wanted to focus on my training. After the Vanuatu Pacific Mini Games, I will return to work.
How do you share your expertise and skill with the community?
I teach Judo at Port Vila International School as an after-school activity and have been doing it for almost a year. I also coach young children three times a week at my local Judo club. It is amazing to watch young kids be fearless and learn about this art of sport, make new friends, have fun and return each week because they don’t mind being thrown down on the mat.
I started Judo because I wanted to try something new, and after a month of attending and being thrown down on the mats, I knew that it was definitely for me. It’s a sport that showed discipline, and it was a sport that was not for the faint-hearted. Even though it is a tough sport, I thrived on the challenges it came with like cutting weight when it came to competition times, anything over my weight I get disqualified. Thankfully that has never happened.
My motivation to pursue Judo is to win an international fight and to gain more experience in bigger competitions and to get far better in my techniques. As a whole, it drives me to become better so I do not want to remain just a domestic fighter here in Vanuatu, but rather to be a high-performance athlete in this sport.
What do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy traveling and meeting new people from around the world. I enjoy sharing training from other Judokas within the training camps I attend. This sport is such a brotherhood that we can come together and share techniques and knowledge and that everyone is a family.
What's the part you enjoy the least?
I don’t enjoy cutting weight for this sport ( I don’t think anyone does) even though I have done it many times. Cutting weight is mentally stressful. You have to lose weight right up to fight day and you have to be careful not to lose too much in case of being dehydrated during your fight. This tends to make me nervous.
Your biggest highlights so far?
My major highlights are winning a fight at the Commonwealth in Glasgow 2014 and making it to the Olympics in Rio 2016. It was such a dream come true for me.
What does the future hold for Joe Mahit?
My long-range goal for Judo currently now is making it to the next Olympics in 2020 Japan. After that, I want to start up my own dojo and coach young children here in Vanuatu and give back to my community. I want to stay fit and gain more fighting techniques - and to work with various top judo coaches to give their own experiences.
Who or what is your inspiration?
My inspiration in sport is my partner. We balance each other out really well. She is an athlete and netball coach herself and she understands what it means to really commit to something you love especially when it comes sport. I support her in her sport, and she does mine. There are times when I feel I don’t have the motivation to train or find it difficult to cut weight for a fight, but she has always been there to push me and remind me of why I started Judo in the first place. She is my number one supporter, next to my family.
Tell us about your greatest achievement and strengths within the sport. Do you participate in any other sport?
My biggest personal achievement in Judo was winning a game at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 against a judoka from the Bahamas. My main strength in Judo, I would have to say, is my grip. The way I hold on to my opponent I have good control in my hands and power to him maneuver him where I want him to go
on the tatami (mat). I don’t participate in any other sports because Judo takes up most of my time, but if I did I would choose to try Rugby.
What are you looking forward to the most at the Vanuatu 2017 Pacific Mini Games?
What I am looking forward to at the Mini Games held here in Vanuatu is to compete in front of my family, partner and my home crowd who have never been able to watch me fight, because it has always been overseas. And of course, I want to win!
This is only just the beginning for me, I know there is still lots to learn, but since doing Judo it has opened up so many prospects for me and I am grateful for it. It’s allowed me to have a job at Holiday Inn Resort and I've learned so many new skills like sailing a catamaran. I am quite a shy person so this new job has allowed me to speak to and meet a lot of friendly guests. Not only have I built confidence through my sport, but working at the Holiday Inn Resort Vanuatu has contributed more to who I am as a person without a Judo Gi (uniform). This means when I meet guests I am happy to share with them my experiences as a Judoka overseas and they get to see that a small country like Vanuatu can also breed Olympians.
Photo credit: Ron Zwiers - click here to see more of Ron's amazing work.