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IG Interview: Cameron MacKenzie (South Africa)
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Previously a junior hope for Great Britain, South African-born Cameron MacKenzie is eager to represent his home country.

A team gold medalist for Great Britain at the 2010 European Junior Championships, Cameron MacKenzie is eagerly adjusting to the new role, opportunities and challenges he is taking on to represent South Africa, the country of his birth.

MacKenzie was born Nov. 18, 1992, in Humansdorp (close to Jeffreys Bay), but moved to England with his family when he was 9.

MacKenzie helped the British team win gold at the 2010 European Junior Championships in Birmingham, where he finished 10th all-around in qualifications. In British senior all-around competition, MacKenzie placed 12th in 2011, 11th in 2012 and sixth in 2013.

While living in England, MacKenzie trained under coach Paul Hall at Huntingdon Olympic Gymnastics Club, where his training partners included three-time Olympic medalist Louis Smith, 2009 world all-around silver medalist Daniel Keatings and 2012 Olympic team bronze medalist Sam Oldham.

MacKenzie, who was hampered by a wrist injury at last month's African Championships, aims to be at peak form for this summer's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and this fall's world championships in Nanning.

In this IG Online interview, MacKenzie details his expectations as a potential leader of South African gymnastics.

IG: 2014 is going to be a big year for you, representing your "new" country at the Commonwealth Games and hopefully Worlds. Although you have competed in big events such as the 2010 Junior Europeans, how are you preparing to not only compete well for yourself, but also take on the expectations that South Africa has for you?

MacKenzie at the African championships

CM: 2014 will definitely be a big year for me as far as establishing myself as a South African gymnast, both continentally and globally. Commonwealth Games qualification is by no means a given, but it would be fantastic to compete in the Games, as well as the 2014 World Championships. I think many people are expecting great things from me. I can certainly feel the pressure to perform and produce results. Although I had my fair share of experience as a junior, a three-year break from international events has left me a little nervy and unpracticed. I plan on building my competition experience this year to reach a consistent and stable level of performance, where I can set about achieving my goals as well as those of South Africa's.

IG: When and why did you come to the decision to start representing South Africa?

CM: In 2010 I competed in a junior international in South Africa. It was the first time I had been back to my country of birth since emigrating when I was 9 years old. I ended up winning the competition and remember feeling uneasy as the British anthem played for me – it felt wrong to be flying a different flag in my own country.

Since then the idea that I should be competing for South Africa took root, but it wasn't until early 2013 that I began communications. The benefits were obvious in that I would have a much better chance to compete in international events for South Africa than I would for Great Britain. Everyone I spoke to agreed that it was a good decision, including my coaches and parents, although it was certainly not something which I rushed into.

IG: How have you physically transitioned from training in England to living and training in South Africa?

CM: I'm currently living near Pretoria and training at Centurion Gymnastics Club. I made the decision to move back to South Africa to be fully part of the set-up and team. I'm serious about progressing in my gymnastics career, and believe that moving back to South Africa is an important gesture in order for people to get behind me and to achieve the necessary support. The move means I've had to leave behind one of the best clubs and coaches in the world at Huntingdon, as well as my parents and sister. For now I have no set plans for travelling back and forth for training, but I'm sure I will still be spending time in Huntingdon over the coming years.

IG: How much will Paul Hall be involved in coaching you going forward?

MacKenzie with a young South African gymnast

CM: Paul will continue to help with training programs and advice. My coach here in South Africa is Gerhard Ferreira, and we send videos of my training to Paul, who can then comment and help out. Obviously it's been difficult adapting to new circumstances, but I've been overwhelmed by the help and support I've received so far. And not only here in South Africa but also in England, where two great companies (Paul Lancaster Ltd and QAV-ltd) have taken it upon themselves to support me, and have made a tremendous impact on my career.

IG: What do you think you can bring to the South African team, in terms of not only scoring potential but your leadership skills and your international experience?

CM: I don't consider myself a very experienced gymnast, especially on a senior level. A lot of the South African team have already competed in world championships and are older than I, so my experience is not something which I think will make a big difference to the team. I would primarily look at contributing scores on each apparatus, and being the consistent all-arounder who can help hold the team together during competition through my performance. I'm also looking at ways to bring the team together regularly for training, as we are split among four clubs.

IG: What you can take away from your performance at the African Championships in terms of preparing for the bigger competitions to come in 2014?

CM: Unfortunately I injured my right wrist in the build-up to Africans. X-rays showed that an old fracture became inflamed, which resulted in taking a lot of difficulty out of my routines. I managed to fight through the competition and finished fourth all-around, which was quite a disappointing result when I consider the winning score was certainly within my grasp if I had been fit. However, I was pleased that I was able to contribute towards the team result, and have now participated in an African Championships. If anything, the competition has further motivated me to make sure I'm properly prepared for upcoming events in 2014.

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