- A few days ago, 18-year-old Caitlin should have been making history as South Africa's first female artistic gymnast in 15 years to compete in the Olympic Games.
- Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she was unable to showcase all the hard work she did in preparation for the big event.
- On the same day she should have been competing in Tokyo, Sanlam gave Caitlin the chance to make some new plans by live-streaming her medal-worthy routine to thousands of online viewers.
Caitlin is delighted with her online performance, saying, "I'm over the moon. I was nervous about it, but I gave it my best and I'm so proud of the end result - especially considering that I've been in lockdown for over three months and have only been back training for a month. I'm so grateful to Sanlam for this incredible opportunity, and I'm more motivated than ever. The dream hasn't changed, only the timeline."
Caitlin's coach, Ilse Pelser, who has trained her since she first took an interest in gymnastics at the age of six, is proud of the protégée.
"Years and years of hard work are paying off," Ilse says. "It was fantastic being out there with her - to see her do one of the best routines of her life."
Watch Caitlin's routine below.
Watching from the sidelines, mom Veda is Caitlin's fiercest supporter and her greatest inspiration. Having single-handedly raised and supported her two kids after her husband died 12 years ago, the live-stream was a special milestone for the family.
"It wasn't easy getting to this point, but it was so worth it. Watching her today, and seeing her efforts celebrated across the country, I felt so proud of how far she has come - it's exceeded our every expectation," the proud mom says.
W24 also caught up with Caitlin to speak to her about what it took for her to qualify for the Olympics and how other young hopefuls can tap into the champions within themselves just as she did.
How did you first get involved in gymnastics?
I was an extremely active and busy kid, always bouncing off the walls, and family friends suggested that my parents enroll me in gymnastics to channel all my unspent energy. That was the best decision my parents ever made for me.
How do you juggle the gym with schoolwork?
I have been competing in high performance from a very young age, so being disciplined at school was something standard, and with my dad being a teacher, I had no choice but to focus on my school work. Travelling made it even more challenging, but I had to work with the school and my teachers and was able to work in advance. When it came to tests and exams, the school was entirely supportive of helping me get that done.
How often did you train to qualify for the Olympics?
I train for about four to five hours a day at the gym six days a week, coupled with between two to three hours of online training four days a week. So yes, lots of hard work to be able to have qualified for the Olympics.
What inspired your Olympic routine?
Being in such a hard lockdown for the three months and only relying on my online training and experience, I was quite nervous when Sanlam offered me this opportunity. However, I have been working on this routine for the past two years, and even though no one had seen it before, I was quite confident in showcasing it to the country.
What are your feelings around being unable to perform at the Olympics due to Covid-19 restrictions?
I was quite disappointed, but we always have to stay flexible and the positive aspect of this pandemic is that it gives me more time to prepare to perform at my best and, thanks to Sanlam, I got to show South Africa my routine. I am also so glad that the Olympics was postponed and not cancelled and I also have my eye on Paris 2024.
How do you feel about the live-stream of your performance?
I am completely over the moon about it. It felt so unreal to have done it on the same date that I would have competed in Tokyo. Just in case anyone has missed it, you can find it on www.nowisthetimetoplan.co.za
What's next for you?
I'm going to continue to train hard to get back into shape for the Olympics next year. I took a gap year to focus on the Olympics, which was due to happen this year, so I need to consider what Tokyo 2021 means for my education next year.
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What advice do you have for other young sportswomen who hope to make it to the international stage?
I would say that discipline, perseverance and consistency is key to being successful in anything. Also, it is important to have a clear vision and a clear goal and don't be afraid to push yourself.
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