By Mark Etheridge
If ever Team South Africa at the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China had aspirations of soaring up the medals table, they would have been boosted by an inspirational young speaker on Monday.
Petite redhead Sam Stainton gave the team of 55 an upbeat promotional talk showcasing the sport of climbing and spoke with a maturity beyond her years.
She also had the ‘elder’ members of the team – read management – chuckling as she opened her speech.
‘I’m actually a bit older than you guys, because I’m 19.’
Although the bulk of the team may be between 14-18 years of age, some of the management members can only dream a few generations back to when they were teenagers.
‘Climbing missed out on being included in the 2020 Olympics as wrestling won its place back.
‘Now at the Youth Olympics we and the sports of rollerskating, skateboarding and wushu are showcasing their stuff.’
Stainton, who matriculated at Crawford College in Lone Hill, Johannesburg is taking a gap year from studies but has has been climbing competitively for four years now and captains the Alphas Climbing Team.
‘My family is very involved too, my mom coaches me and my brother and dad are also very involved. The climbing fraternity is very much like a family. There’s no money in the sport and everyone is just so keen on helping everyone else and raising the standard of the sport.’
Stainton says one of the most exciting disciplines in climbing is the Speed Category.
‘It’s a 15m high wall at 15deg. It’s absolutely fast and furious and insane to watch.
‘We competed at Singapore and our fastest time was around 15sec – the world record is 5.8sec, incredible!’
If anyone can motivate the young Team South Africa to overcome any obstacle in their path at this, the second Youth Olympic Games, it’s going to be Stainton, who will accompany the team to Nanjing.