The country’s leading gymnasts were in action at Kuilsriver, Western Cape at the weekend as the national artistic championships served as a springboard for titles and qualification for the 2015 African Games and Artistic World Championships later in the year.
World Championships also serve as the first qualifiers for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Three new South African champions were crowned in the men’s senior Olympic, women’s senior Olympic and women’s junior Olympic divisions. These were Ryan Patterson, Bianca Mann and Naveen Daries (all of Gauteng).
Gauteng’s Muhammad Khaalid Mia, flag bearer for Team SA at last year’s Youth Olympic Games in China, won the highest men’s junior category of High Performance 5.
Gauteng born Patterson, who currently lives and trains in the USA and is a student at the University of California, was the cream of the crop in the men’s senior Olympic competition, wining four gold and two silver medals.
Coming off her recent successes at the Slovenia and Doha World Cups in May, where she won fifth and sixth place respectively in the uneven bars finals, Commonwealth Games gymnast Mann continued her good form to win the women’s senior all-round title, and pick up gold on bar, silver on vault, and two bronze medals on beam and floor.
The event also saw the return of another Commonwealth Games gymnast, Kirsten Beckett, to major competition after being out of the sport forsix months due to a shoulder operation. She finished fourth in the all-round and won gold on beam.
A highlight at this event was the come-back of Simon Hutcheon at the ripe old age of 38. Hutcheon is the only South African artistic gymnast to have won a Commonwealth gold medal, back in 1998 on vault.
Although not competing on all apparatus to qualify for the all-round competition, and being out of competitive gymnastics for the past 11 years, Simon’s competition saw him win two silver medals in the high bar and floor apparatus finals!
The event also saw KwaZulu-Natal’s Charles Phillips competing in the Down’s Syndrome Category. Phillips had an outstanding competition, with his scores holding him in good standing to qualify for the Down’s Syndrome World Championships in Italy later this year.
Phillips will be looking to retain his Down’s Syndrome World Champion status, having won this event in 2012.
Source : South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee