Christy Zinn of Glenwood is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athlete, co-director of Tupi Jiu-Jitsu South Africa and a Women in Sports advocacy consultant and has just returned from spending over three months in the United States, training and competing. She was the second South African ever to compete in the International Brazilian jiu-jitsu Federation World Championship.

Zinn said her sport is a grappling form of martial arts that shares its roots with Judo, originating in Japan and then evolved into its own sport through its development in Brazil. Since the sport is more dominated in Brazil, there are not many coaches and academies that provide training. She said her academy is on Florida Road, run by two-time world champion and black belt, Vlademir Alves.

“I am currently the only South African athlete competing in the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s (IBJJF) international circuit of competitions, and the second South African ever to compete in the IBJJF World Championships after Penny Thomas who was the first. She is also a young woman from Durban and she competed in Long Beach, California, in May this year. “

She said her first competition was in 2015. ” As a white belt, in 2015 I competed in Jiu-Jitsu, in a local competition in Brazil, only about one month after starting to train the sport. I had to compete in the weight category above mine, since there was no one registered in my own weight class, and I still managed to win third place. Since then, it has been a dream of mine to build up my name in the international ranking and one day claim a world champion title.

Zinn said one of her challenges was at end of 2017 when she tore a ligament in her knee.
“I needed to have surgery, spent nine months working with an exceptional biokineticist – Gavin Muir to rehabilitate my knee and I slowly started to introduce my body back into training. Getting my body to an elite level of performance after surgery was not easy, but the patience I had to learn from not being able to train and compete during the rehabilitation process prepared me mentally to get my name back into the competition circuit the following year with everything I had. In January, I was finally able to compete again, and participate in the European Open, which took place in January this year in Portugal.” 

She said as her journey continues, this year she wanted to pursue her goal of competing in the IBJJF World Championship and travelled to California. “I have reached my goals, in April I travelled to California, where I spent two months participating in a competition training camp at Art of Jiu-Jitsu, one of the most elite Brazilian jiu-jitsu training facilities in the world, in order to prepare efficiently for Worlds. At the world championships, I won my first fight, and while I was devastated to have lost in the second round, the loss gave me the insight I need to prepare better and work efficiently this year towards a greater result in Worlds 2020.”

“I continued training at Art of Jiu-Jitsu for a month after the world championships, over which time I competed in two more competitions. I competed in the Los Angeles International Open and won gold medals in two categories. I also competed in the Jiu-Jitsu World League Champions Cup which took place in San Francisco, and won third place, before coming back to South Africa.,” she added.

Zinn said her sights now are participating in a number of international competitions
still this year, which will contribute to her preparation. “What matters more to me than any gold medal, however, is the privilege of getting to make an impact in sports for women in South Africa and around the world. Through claiming a world champion title, and continuing to compete internationally, I want to use the platform this provides to let other girls and young women know that they too can pursue a career as an athlete. It’s possible,” she added.

She concluded by saying “Being a female athlete in South Africa – and anywhere in
the world – is not easy. There are a lot of pressures on women in their early 20’s- often from their families and from society in general – to have other desires, like getting married, or having kids, which very often conflicts with any full-time sports-orientated goals. As an athlete, training full-time means that you may not want to fall pregnant while at the peak
of your career, for example, or competing internationally means that you may need to travel often.

“I want to change this, I dream for every girl and young woman that desires to pursue being an athlete as a career to know that she can do so, because she can lay claim to her place within an ecosystem of support in the global sports industry that makes it possible for her to thrive. I intend to use my accomplishments and network in the global sports industry as a platform to contribute to making this happen.”