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Top gymnasts head for SA

Following the resounding success of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the South African Gymnastics Federation (SAGF) has been keen to capitalise on the attention it received and attract other major sporting events to the country.

The International Gymnastics Federation was recently awarded the 2013 Gym for Life World Challenge to Cape Town and at the beginning of December the City of Tshwane will host the Bumbo Gymnastics Cup. This international competition will be graced by the presence of some of the world’s best coaches, including Valeri Liukin, who is father and coach to Women’s Artistic world champion Nastia Liukin (USA).

Liukin is a super-star in the gymnastics world. He was an Olympic Champion in the 1988 team competition and won individual gold on the horizontal bar as well as silvers in the all-around and parallel bars. Liukin was also the first person to perform a triple back somersault in a floor routine at the 1987 European Championships in Moscow. Following his competitive career, Liukin went on to coach all-around champion Carly Patterson at the 2004 Summer Olympics as well as his daughter, Nastia Liukin. Under his guidance, Nastia won five medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics, including the all-around gold medal. Valeri was named International Coach of the Year in both 2000 and 2004 and was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2005.

Liukin will be coaching the USA team at the competition and will expect great things from junior gymnast Katelyn Ohashi who placed second overall at the US National Championships. However, the standard will be very high across the board as Katelyn will be taking on top gymnasts including Jessica Hogg (who represented Great Britain at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore) and South Africa’s own superstar and 2010 Commonwealth Games silver medallist – Jennifer Khwela.

Khwela will be looking to turn in a winning performance as she prepares for London 2012. Her journey, from the township where she grew up to be one of South Africa’s brightest medal hopes for next Olympics games, is a beacon of success for the SAGF’s transformation and development programme.

In the men’s competition, the key battle will be between Marian Dragulescu from Romania (current World champion for both Floor and Vault) and Luke Folwell (who won five medals for England at 2010 Commonwealth Games). South Africa will turn to Michael Makings (who represented SA at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in October 2010) to put in an inspired performance for the home team.

The Bumbo Gymnastics Cup takes place at the Joni Bach Sports Centre in Pretoria North on 2 December and the Matsport Centre from 3-4 December 2010. Competition is scheduled for the afternoon and entrance is free to the public.