By Karien Jonckheere
A team of six gymnasts leave on Tuesday for Debrecen, Hungary to represent South Africa at the Apparatus World Championships.
Among them is Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Athol Myhill who has his sights set on reaching the top eight in the rings. "Athol is of a very high standard and there's a real possibility he'll qualify through the three rounds," explained South Africa's team manager Gabor Kovacs.
"Obviously his aim is to reach the final round."
After that anything could happen. Kovacs points out that the nature of the competition, contested on individual apparatus rather than being an overall event, means results are unpredictable. "That's why it's such a good competition to go for. Everybody's coming with the same chances because they're competing on apparatus they are doing well on."
The only other South African representative in the men's competition is young, up-and-coming Julian Witbooi.
Competing in the vault, Kovacs believes the 17 year old has the potential to progress past the first round. "Our aim is for him to reach the second round and the top 16. Anything else will be a huge bonus," he says of the talented teenager who finished seventh at the Commonwealth Games and managed 21st place at last year's overall World Championships.
The South African women travelling to Hungary, Kelly Golding, Tamaryn Schultz, Zandre Labuschagne and Ursula Botha, will have an extra spring in their step after a successful outing to the recent African Championships in Algeria.
Their team won both the junior and senior women's artistic gymnastics competitions, and picked up 53 medals.
Kovacs, who will be returning to his native Hungary for the World Championships, is optimistic but realistic about the state of the sport in this country.
"It's not the most popular sport in an outdoor country but the talent is everywhere and even without big financial input, gymnastics is producing some good results," he said.