Hard work pays off for PA gymnast

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14-year-old star third overall at prestigious national championships

ON BAR: Kayla Stiekema competes at the SA Artistic Gymnastics High Performance Championships in KwaZulu-Natal
ON BAR: Kayla Stiekema competes at the SA Artistic Gymnastics High Performance Championships in KwaZulu-Natal

PORT Alfred’s Kayla Stiekema placed third overall, as well as third on floor for level 8 (13-18 years) at the 2016 South African Artistic Gymnastics High Performance (HP) National Championships which took place at the KZN Artistic Gymnastics Academy in Pinetown from June 30 to July 2.

About 300 of the top gymnasts and officials from across the country participated at this prestigious event, which determines the best level 7 to senior Olympic gymnasts in the country.

Kayla, 14, is one of only two gymnasts in the entire Eastern Cape who qualified to compete in these championships.

There are three major competitions held each year. Levels 1-3 compete at either north or south zone festivals and levels 4-6 at SA Games.

Last year was the first time in many years that the Eastern Cape was able to produce gymnasts who qualified to compete at the National HP Championships.

This year, once again, the same two young women made the grade, and comfortably at that. Kayla is usually coached by her mother, Carol-Ann Stiekema, a Level 2 artistic coach at Sunshine Coast Gymnastics (SCG), but at the end of April this year they decided that Debbie Gordon of Anderson’s Gymnastics in Port Elizabeth would be completely responsible for Kayla’s training. “Kayla continues to train four times a week [three hours a day] at SCG in Port Alfred, but travels through to Port Elizabeth for the other two days in order to work on better equipment with one of the best coaches in the country,” Carol-Ann said.

Gordon is not only an International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) 1 and level 4 artistic coach, but also a FIG 2 tumbling and trampoline coach and judge, as well as a women’s artistic gymnastics Brevet international judge.

She judged the Beijing Olympics and many world cup championships abroad. “I am extremely proud of Kayla’s great performance at SA champs this year – she is an extremely hard and dedicated worker, ” Gordon said. Stiekema said: “Kayla certainly would not be where she is right now were it not for the excellent advice and coaching by Debbie over the past nine years. “When a gymnast achieves a good reward for her hard work, one should look at the hours of determined training, the enormous sacrifices of time and commitment – not only to the training programmes but also to what she eats and the hours of sleep she gets.

“One has to be extremely self-disciplined to be a gymnast and the encouragement and support from others keeps one focused. We are extremely grateful to those who encouraged, coached and supported Kayla along the way.”

Kayla said of her success: “God showed me that I can even be grateful for those kids who were mean to me – who made me feel that I had no talent at all. “They made me fight harder for what I wanted – it made me tougher. “Competing at nationals is always very inspiring for me. I realise I can do the difficult tricks if I get stronger and work harder.”

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