By Ross Patterson
The 2022 IMMAF Africa Championships saw the Democratic Republic of Congo return to IMMAF competition for the first time since 2019. Their sole medal came through Elyse Balepe, who secured a silver medal in the Middleweight division. The same division that teammate Eliezer Kubanza won gold in at the last Africa Championships.
In the semi-final, Balepe shocked everyone when he slammed his opponent, knocking him out cold. His raw power had many favouring him to win the gold medal. However, It was not meant to be and Balepe lost a close decision to Angola’s Elisio Zua. Despite not winning, he delivered a performance that made his team proud.
He started strong in the final, winning the first round with his grappling prowess and crisp striking. In round two, he began to fade, and his opponent was quick to capitalise. By the end of the third round, both men were exhausted, but the Zua had done enough to get the decision victory
An IMMAF silver medal is still an incredible achievement, which the Congolese team are delighted with.
Coach Taylor Mayunga said:
‘We are extremely delighted about this silver medal win. We aimed for the gold medal given the number of athletes who took part, but the most important thing is that the team will not return empty-handed.’
Elyse Balepe is from the province of Haut-Katanga in the city of Lubumbashi, situated in the South-East of Congo. He was the champion of his province, which secured him his spot at the IMMAF Africa Championships.
Reflecting on the highlight KO in the semi-final. Taylor described Balepe’s KO as ‘spectacular’ and admitted, ‘we ourselves were not expecting that.’
This was the fifth time the Democratic Republic of Congo competed in an IMMAF tournament and their fourth medal. On the overall medal table, the Democratic Republic of Congo placed fifth. Host nation South Africa finished top of the medal table, with Angola second and Namibia third. In the tournament, just 7 out of 36 matches (19%) went to a decision, the rest being finishes.
Coach Taylor was complimentary of the tournament in his final comments. He said:
‘The tournament was great and there was a good atmosphere. The organization was perfect.’