A group of gymnasts from Silverstream School of Skllls, in Manenberg earned themselves a spot on the Western Cape squad, set to take part at the national Summer Games in Gauteng in December for the second consecutive year. And, it’s no fluke, says coach Elma Pietersen, who, in 2022, was asked at the last minute to put together a team for last year’s Games.
This year, she said, the young gymnasts, all of them 16 years old and in Level Two, were put through a series of stringent competitions to convince selectors that they have what it takes to represent the province. Ultimately, rope skippers Lee-Ann Wyngaard, Tyron August and Brooklyn van der Rhede along with artistic gymnast Bradwill Visagie and Jaden Lee Cupido who does sport aerobics made the cut.
Pietersen has been involved with gymnastics for most of her 37-year career and have been at the School of Skills for the past five years.
Established in 2019 on what used to be Silverstream Senior Secondary School grounds, the renamed School of Skills offers pupils the opportunity of learning a wide range of skills and crafts and encourages sporting activities, she said.
“We have soccer, netball, drilling and cultural events like dancing and singing, but are still working on getting people to partner with us. We are trying to start a bond with the Amy Biehl Foundation to help us in that department,” said Pietersen.
She said her group are pioneers in their own right as the Western Cape never had learners with special educational needs (LSEN) taking part in the Summer Games. She said gymnastics was introduced to the school following an initiative by the provincial Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) who selected the squad members.
Sadly, she said, two had to be dropped as the department could not cover all costs involved.
“It’s a big deal for us, as they worked really hard, so it’s really sad that not all of them can go” she said.
“But we move on, she said, “despite the fact that we don’t have an appropriate venue to practice in, we don’t have equipment for certain disciplines like artistic and sometimes have to travel to Wasabi Gymnastics Club at Zeekoeivlei Primary, in Grassy Park, to train on certain days as well as Silverstream Primary here in Manenberg,” she said.
”Sometimes, the gang violence is so hectic, we prefer not to practice after school for the children’s safety.“
Rope skipper Lee-Ann, is an all-round sporty person who loves netball, athletics and is a member of the school’s drill team. “I love winning medals and the practice sessions, especially when the whole group is together,“ she said.
Her teammate Jaden Lee agrees, saying: “I like the getting together with other gymnasts and training together as well taking part in competition, although I sometimes feel nervous.”
For Bradwill it’s all about the challenge of getting onto the apparatus even though he’s just starting out. “I especially liked the drive to Stellenbosch,“ he said, referring to a competition where he impressed the judges enough to give him the green light.
“I just want to have fun, help others and to enjoy myself when learning new techniques,” added Tyron.