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Youth Olympian Stans gunning for Gold Coast

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She represented South Africa at the last Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China three years ago and now Leanco Stans’ quest to qualify for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Australia starts in earnest .

She’ll be grappling at the Commonwealth Wrestling Championships at Carnival City, Brakpan next month.

The 20-year-old UP-Tuks wrestler admits she’s in for a tough challenge as quite a few Olympians will be competing. One of the top contenders in her under-66kg weight category is going to be New Zealand’s Tayla Ford who won a bronze medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland and represented her country at last year’s Olympic Games.

Stans is not sure, but says she might have to grapple against one or two of Australia and Nigeria’s Olympic wrestlers as well if she wants to qualify for the final.

But she’s far from being fazed by the prospect of having to wrestle against some of the world’s best and is looking forward to it.

Her confidence sprouts as a result of getting a bursary from the United World Wrestling which saw her training for six months at the Olympic Training Centre in Kuortane, Finland.

Stans says the idea behind the bursaries is to improve the standard of women’s wrestling in Commonwealth countries.

‘To train in Finland for six months with some of the world’s best wrestlers and coaches has been a life-changing experience. I think in South Africa there are aren’t many more than 10 female wrestlers. But during the training camp on any given day, there were more than 10 female wrestlers on the mat, and everybody wanted to be the best.’

Stans said they trained 10 times a week, and did three power and stamina sessions. The rest of the time they were on the mat where the coaches helped them to hone their technical skills.

Ford was also at the training camp and Stans describes the New Zealander as a real ‘tiger’ on the mat.

‘One of the valuable lessons I learned in Finland is not to be stressed out about a rival’s reputation. It’s a case of stepping onto the mat and give it 100%,’ said Stans.

Earlier this year at the African Junior Championships in Marrakech, Morocco she was fourth in the freestyle category, equalling her 2016 placing. She has represented South Africa at every African Championships since 2013.

Stans, who grew up in Bethal, started wrestling after watching her brother enjoying himself as a wrestler.

‘It was a case of deciding that I wasn’t going to miss out on the fun. Anyway, I am of the opinion that women are capable of doing anything better than men. I never regretted my decision to start wrestling.’

As a means of helping her improve her wrestling skills Stans also took up Brazilian martial arts form Jiu-Jitsu. It promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using proper techniques.

Stans admits that her female friends have not yet taken to the idea of women wrestling. ‘But they are missing out big time. Wrestling is not just an excellent way to defend yourself; it teaches you a lot about discipline. I can honestly say I have grown as a person through my participation in wrestling.’

Picture of Stans in training at Tuks courtesy of Reg Caldecott

 


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