When the Groth name is mentioned in the sporting circles only karate comes to mind.
But it is not necessarily Khaya’s name that rings a bell but his brother’s, Kevin. It is not that the former boasts more achievements than his younger brother but perhaps that he penetrated the sport before Khaya thus leaving the young Groth in his shadow for a while. However as he grows older Khaya proves his mettle more and inscribes his name in history more than anything else.
Infact, according to one of his mentors and coach who has seen him grow from childhood to the polished gem he is now, he has always wondered why he was receiving very little attention compared to Kevin while he believed he was much better than his brother. But Sensei Bakwadi mantains that even then he knew Khaya would stand the test of time because of his passion. Bakwadi, who has been Khaya’s coach for a decade now at Hayashi-Ha club says he remembers when he was nine years old he would ask him: ‘Coach why is everyone talking about my brother when I started training before him and also being better than him,?’ But years later as a young man this humble ‘karate kid’ as some nicknamed him , has maintained that he draws inspiration from his brother Kevin and other senior karatekas of whom some every now and then assist in his training such as Ofentse Bakwadi.
Bakwadi(Mpho) says he would then respond by telling him that patience is key and that one day he will get there. These statements have today turned into reality because Khaya refused to quit even when he thought he was not recognised. In addition to that Bakwadi says, discipline and taking karate very seriously is what sets Khaya apart from his peers. “Unlike most of his peers he is very disciplined and takes it very seriously to a point where he can even ask for extra training, insisting that he does not feel confident at the level he would have trained up to. That is no ordinary 16 year old,” noted Bakwadi. Khaya, who is now a 2nd Dan Black belt holder has in the past years quietly climbed his way up the ranks although rarely on the celebrated spotlight but always on the podium to receive a medal at every competition he has competed in. Infact this is an understatement because at regional level he has swept the stakes, emerging victorious at every Zone VI championship in his category for the past five years. This year's continental rewards have been showered upon the 16-year-old as he moved ranks from regional level to be a force to reckon with in the continent.
At the just ended Africa Junior Championships in Tunisia, in the 16-17 category, Khaya was ranked second in Africa having won silver (kata) and bronze (kumite). Having started karate at the age of five, Khaya tasted glory and stardom at the age of eight at a regional competition, the Zone VI tournament in Zimbabwe where he impressively bagged a gold for kata and bronze for kumite.
This is the same trend of winning he has maintained over the years, performing very well in kata although he has a soft spot for kumite because he says it gives one a chance to cover up for their mistakes unlike in kata when you cannot counter mistakes. The recent achievement is one that Sensei Bakwadi regards as one of his finest moments and is also proud of him as his mentor. “I was very impressed in Tunisia. To reach the finals in the kata and also be on the medal bracket for the kumite, It was just an amazing performance. We need more athletes of Khaya’s calibre and as a coach I am blessed to still have him as one of the athletes under my wing.
I can only wish him the best in everything because I know he can achieve a lot, “said Bakwadi who could clearly not hide his excitement and what he thinks of the world of Khaya. Although Khaya’ s recent achievement may be viewed as entirely individual, Botswana Karate Association( BOKA) is on cloud nine because they have achieved what had seemed far fetched in recent years. But also they are worried that more needs to be done to propel more Khayas to higher heights. BOKA has a medal target for 2018 World Karate Federation (WKF) championships, something that had never been achieved at a senior level in Botswana save for juniors like Thabiso Maretlwaneng and Lesedi Seisa around 2005 and are now rejuvenated and hopeful that it is possible if more karatekas of Khaya’s calibre are exposed more.
BOKA spokesperson, Jerry Ditlhong admits that Khaya’s achievements give them the push to invest more in juniors at this level because for over a decade they have not sent any athlete at this competition where Khaya performed well because of lack of funds. “We have realised our inability to expose the juniors will hinder our progress with the seniors because they would not have had much exposure to senior ranks. Khaya’s achievement has given us a wake up call that although where we want to be is far there is now light at the end of the tunnel,” acknowledged Ditlhong. Bakwadi concurs with Ditlhong that if results are to be realised more resources and time need to be invested in the juniors soon. He says Khaya can go places but it would be pointless to prepare him say for the 2014 World Cup in Lisbon, Portugal on the eve of the competition than affording him a lengthy training.
The Maruapula School Form 4 student is a boy of many talents. He also manages to dedicate a remainder of his time to music, something that someone of his age may not manage to juggle but Khaya does. He admits that music is his other love and can be the only thing that holds him up on karate although he does not allow that because he says karate reflects on his true character of boundless energy. “I am very energetic and so karate has allowed me to put such energy into good use and above all it has become a very useful tool,”he has said.