Team SA’s 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Mona Pretorius celebrates her 31st birthday today (12 August) and she does so as part of the weightlifting squad competing at the African Games. Happy birthday from all of South Africa, Mona!
She’s a veteran of TeamSA, having represented her country at four Commonwealth Games – in 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018 – as well as the Commonwealth Championships and World Championships but she’s getting better with age. After claiming bronze in the 63kg division at the Gold Coast last year she said: ‘In weightlifting most women peak in their mid-30s so I have another few years. Physically you might not improve that much but definitely psychologically.’
Gary Lemke, Team SA’s media representative at the African Games in Morocco, caught up with her to ask a few questions.
Who are your role model(s) in the sport? Have you ever met him/her?
My role model is Lydia Valentin and she has been an icon in the sport for a very long time portraying both beauty and strength. I have had the opportunity of meeting her a few times as we both competed at the world championships.
Explain what it means to represent your country at an international event.
Representing my country has always been a massive honour and after 20 years still representing South Africa and always doing my best do be a role model for others and flying the flag high. The time it hits me the most is normally at the opening ceremonies where you feel all the energy of all the countries.
How do you prepare for a tournament in the ready room, listen to (what) music etc? I always have my head phones and have a training and competition playlist I listen to. My list consists of a variety of songs ranging from David Guetta to Roxette, Taylor Swift, Linkin Park. I also have some praise and worship songs that really get me focused and hyped. Probably not the typical hard-core music people would expect! I also have alone time just before I lift that I dedicate to some breathing techniques and visualisation.
What is your most memorable personal weightlifting moment?
Definitely hands down getting my medal at Commonwealth Games last year. It took me four Commonwealth Games to stand on the podium. And I never let the dream go. It was like 18 years of hard work paid off at that very moment.
What is your most memorable other sporting moment?
The same as above. I felt like I achieved something so great and meaningful and it’s been a very rough road getting there but I did it. It all hit me as I completed my last lift and I realised I did it!
In terms of your travels, what has been your favourite country and why?
Australia. I love the weather, the people and for some reason every single time I have competed in Australia it has brought me some good luck. I won at the Commonwealth Youth Games over there and broke the Youth Commonwealth record. I won a bronze medal at the Youth Olympics as well and then Gold Coast last year was my best achievement.
What is the favourite app that you have on your phone?
Spotify – but only when it works (laughs). I love music and it seriously just changes my mood when I get to listen to my music. Instagram might be a close second.
If you weren’t a weightlifter what would you be?
This is a tough one because I have been a weightlifter for 20 years. But I would probably already be a registered sport psychologist which I am working towards. But with regard to sport maybe I would have wanted to be gymnast just because of how beautiful and elegant the sport is.
What are your sporting ambitions for the next two years?
Tokyo Olympics 2020! This is my No 1 goal and has been my whole career. I am giving my everything right now to get that spot and carry on flying the South African flag high.
Which person has had the most influence on your career?
Probably my father, he has practically raised me in sport and he has been there through it all. I was lucky enough to prepare with him last year before the Commonwealth Games and I believe he is one of the best coaches South Africa has had. He is tough but he gets the best our of me and all his athletes he trains.