South African women's gymnastics team coach Ilse Roets told IG her gymnasts are aiming to improve on the country's historic best results at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where gymnastics begins Monday.
"We are coming in to the competition with very specific goals," Roets said. "All three girls need to have a competition without any falls or major errors, and each one of them would like to make at least one apparatus finals."
Kirsten Beckett, coach Ilse Roets, Claudia Cummins and Bianca Mann at the 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
Kirsten Beckett, Claudia Cummins and Bianca Mann will aim to better South Africa's sixth-place finish in the team competition at the 2006 Games in Melbourne. South Africa did not field a full team at the 2010 Games in Delhi.
"This time around we have only three girls, so that will make it quite difficult, as we simply can't make any mistakes," Roets said. "Our goal as a team is to finish in the top six."
Competing for the South African men in Glasgow are Siphesihle Biyase, Tiaan Grobler, Cameron MacKenzie and Siphamandla Ngcobo.
Roets said she has fond memories of her own performance at the 1994 Games in Victoria, Canada.
"It was our first time back after almost 40 years of (political) sanctions," she said. "It was an amazing experience and I made the beam final and placed sixth, which was huge for us at the time."
In Glasgow, Roets said the level of competition is stronger than at recent Games, with the presence of several 2008 and 2012 Olympians.
"The standard of gymnastics in the Commonwealth has increased significantly over the last eight years, and there will be really big names competing, such (Canada's) Ellie Black, (Australia's) Lauren Mitchell, and (England's) Hannah Whelan and Becky Downie," Roets said. "So it is going to be a great show of good quality gymnastics."
Despite the formidable international field, Roets said she hopes the South Africans can continue the country's tally of impressive individual performances at the previous two Games.
"The South African girls won their first Commonwealth Games medal in 2006 (Francki van Rooyen, bronze on floor exercise) and then a silver on vault in 2010 (Jennifer Khwela), so there is certainly an expectation for another medal this time around," Roets said. "But this is gymnastics, and anything can happen on the day, as we know."
Beckett, 18, trains under coach Ilse Roets and assistant coach Glen Hlongwane at Johannesburg Gymnastics Centre. She placed first all-around at the 2014 African championships and first all-around at the 2014 South African championships. Beckett was second on vault at the 2013 Challenge Cup of Ljubljana; fifth on floor exercise and sixth on vault at the 2013 Challenge Cup of Doha, Qatar; and fifth on vault and eighth on floor exercise at the 2014 Challenge Cup of Cottbus, Germany. She finished 43rd all-around in qualifications at the 2013 world championships in Antwerp.
IG: You have already established yourself internationally with high finishes at several FIG competitions. What is your goal for Glasgow?
KB: I have definitely come here to make at least two finals and challenge for a medal on vault and floor. Our best Commonwealth Games finish in the all-around to date was ninth place in 1998, by a gymnast called Nadine de Kock, and my goal is to try and improve that by finishing in the top eight. My goal is always just to do a clean competition without any falls. If I do that, then I am always proud of myself.
Cummins, who turned 19 on June 12, trains under coach Ilse Roets, and assistant coaches Glen Hlongwane and Shirley Watson, at Johannesburg Gymnastics Centre. She finished 27th all-around in qualifications at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, and 66th all-around in qualifications at the 2013 world championships. Cummins was sixth on vault at the 2011 Challenge Cup of Doha, Qatar; fifth on vault at the 2013 Challenge Cup of Ljubljana; and sixth on vault at the 2013 Challenge Cup of Osijek, Croatia. She placed second all-around to Beckett at the 2014 South African championships.
IG: You head into the Games as South Africa's number-two gymnast, so how are you viewing your personal goals for Glasgow in terms of helping South Africa push towards a medal in team standings?
CC: My personal goal is to have a clean competition and help the team in that way. We have come here with a team of only three girls, so we have no room for error, as the team size is actually five girls in the team, four up on an apparatus and then the best three scores count. By not making any major mistakes I should be one of the two South African girls in the all-around finals and, of course, I'm hoping for an apparatus final, too. Realistically though, our team goal is to finish in the top six.
Mann trains at Visions Gymnastics Club in Gauteng, where she is coached by Adele Heine and Derick Scholtz. She won four medals, including silver in the all-around, at the 2014 African championships. Her grandfather, Tom van Vollenhoven, is a South African rugby legend who later played in the U.K.
IG: Glasgow is perhaps your biggest competition yet. Having finished second all-round at this year's African championships, what is your key focus for Glasgow - making a name for yourself internationally, getting used to competing against gymnast from outside Africa, or perhaps something else?
BM: My biggest international competition to date was the Cottbus Challenge Cup in March. I have made the team to this year's world championships in China (in October) too, so yes, I am definitely looking at establishing myself internationally and of course consolidating my performance all the time. My favorite apparatus is beam and at the Commonwealth Games, I would really like to have a solid competition without any falls. That would be great!
International Gymnast magazine's features on 2014 Commonwealth Games competitors includes:
"Golden Surprise" - Lauren Mitchell cover photo and profile (January/February 2011)
"10 Questions with Naoya Tsukahara" – interview (September 2013)
"10 Questions with Olivia Vivian" – interview (March 2011)
"Canadian Diversity" - Ellie Black profile (July/August 2013)
"Black to Business" - Ellie Black interview (November 2012)
"Aiming to Top the Charts" - Maegan Chant interview (October 2013)
Nathan Gafuik interview (July/August 2010)
"Making Tracks" – profile on Scott Morgan of Canada (December 2013)
Isabela Onyshko profile (August 2014)
Becky Downie cover photo and interview (June 2014)
"European Brilliance" - interview with Ruby Harrold (September 2013)
Sam Oldham on cover photo collage (July/August 2010)
Oldham interview (June 2010)
"Royal Treatment" - Louis Smith profile (December 2008)
"Divide and Conquer" – interview with Kristian Thomas of England (May 2012)
"Lord Max" – Max Whitlock interview (June 2013)
"Lilleshall: Backstage in Britain" – cover story on British national program (November 2011)
"Jamaican American" – Toni-Ann Williams profile (March 2014)
Lim Heem Wei profile (June 2012)
"Shooting Star" - profile on Sarah Beck (January/February 2009)
"Rising Irishman" - profile on Matthew Cosgrave (December 2007)
"Room to Grow" – feature on IG's visit to Salto Gymnastics Club (March 2009)
Daniel Keatings interview and center poster (June 2009)
"Nervous Purvis" – Daniel Purvis profile (November 2012)
"Pure Purvis" – Purvis interview (March 2012)
Purvis cover photo (November 2011)
"Sibling Revelry" - profile on Angel Romaeo of Wales (September 2010)
"Welsh Wisdom" - Raer Theaker profile (October 2013)
To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital edition of International Gymnast magazine, click here.