By Mark Etheridge
in Brazzaville, Congo
Bouncy gymnast Kirsten Beckett banked Team South Africa’s first individual gold medal and also helped her teammates to team gold at the All Africa Games here on Saturday.
The 19-year-old, pictured on the podium, came out tops in the all-around competition after the two days of competition.
Just Nigeria and Algeria had to compete on Sunday and Beckett and the team were in the stands when the action ended and the scores tallied.
Beckett had a provisional score of 40.25 for the three disciplines she completed, uneven bars, beam and vault. The floor event didn’t take place after the incorrect floor was supplied by organisers.
For the team event Beckett was backed up by Bianca Mann, Claudia Cummins, Tylah Lotter and Angela Maguire.
On the bus back to the Athletes’ Village, Johannesburg’s Beckett was unaware that she’d won SA’s first medal. ‘Wow, I didn’t know that, great news.
‘All the medals I’ve won mean a lot to me but this is right up there with the best, especially after coming back from surgery to my left shoulder a year ago this month,’ she said.
‘It’s also my first African Games. I’ve had a nice consistent build-up to the Games and was pretty confident I’d do well – I think we’ve all adapted quite well here.’
Part of that build-up were the nationals in Cape Town in June where she ended fourth as team-mate here (and at Commonwealth Games last year) Bianca Mann was tops.
As for the injury ‘It still gets a bit stiff now and then but I’m learning to manage it and it’s nowhere near as sore and restricting as it used to be.’
Beckett will be in action again on Sunday when she tackles two apparatus in the individual competition, the bar and beam, and after being one of the first codes to arrive in Congo, they’ll leave for home on Wednesday.
‘Then I’ve got to prepare myself for World Championships trials in Pretoria. World Championships are in Glasgow, Scotland in November at the same venue used for Commonwealth Games.’
She’ll also start getting to the end of her gap year after finishing school and is applying for a spot at the University of Johannesburg where she’s hoping to study something in the sports science line.