It was a day of firsts for South Africa at the recent 15th Individual African Gymnastics Championships in Egypt.
For the first time a women’s team was represented by sisters with Zelme and Naveen Daries both contesting for a spot to the Olympic Games together with fellow teammate Mammule Rankoe. This trio was accompanied by fellow star Caitlin Rooskrantz, who has travelled with the team to support the girls in their quest to qualify and get some much-needed international participation experience in the run up to Tokyo Olympics.
The girls competed on all four apparatus against strong competitors from Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria and Cameroon in the pursuit of the two berths (only one per country) to the Olympics. Naveen, Zelme and Mammule recently took part in the African Champs Trials which saw them all finish within a narrow margin of 0.500 points of each other, making entering this event anyone’s game within Team South Africa alone.
Following a strongly contested battle, Naveen Daries from South Africa and Zeina Sharaf from Egypt walked away with the coveted two Olympic qualification spots.
‘It has been a tough 15 months with no international participation for the girls, with immense pressure with the Olympic qualification as their first competition back,’ says Ilse Pelser. ‘I am proud of how they applied themselves and adjusted on the day in their quest to qualify for the Olympic Games. Today saw Naveen pull out every strategy to grab that coveted place.’
The results see South African women’s gymnastics qualify two gymnasts for the first time ever to the Olympics.
‘We are so proud of our Women’s Team,’ said Donny Jurgens, President of Gymnastics South Africa. “All their hard work over many years is finally seeing the results. We can’t wait to see them on the Olympic stage in July following the Egyptian World Challenge Cup.’
Caitlin and Naveen remain in Egypt with coach Pelser and judge Paddy Chadwick to attend the World Challenge Cup before returning home for final preparations for Tokyo.