CAPE TOWN - Caitlin Rooskrantz described her personal best performance in artistic gymnastics at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday as ’incredible’ as she made history for Team South Africa at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre.
Along with teammate Naveen Daries, the duo became the first women of colour to participate in the sport for South Africa at the Olympics.
American superstar Simone Biles, as expected, took the lead with a total score of 57.731, with the top 24 athletes advancing to the all-around final.
The 19-year-old Rooskrantz, who hails from Johannesburg, is in 34th spot at the time of writing in the all-around category with 49.933. In comparison, Biles scored 14.966 (vault), 14.566 (uneven bars), 14.066 (balance beam) and 14.133 (floor) in the four disciplines, while Rooskrantz produced 12.800 (vault), 13.300 (uneven bars), 12.200 (balance beam) and 11.633 (floor).
“It was incredible! I don’t know – I’m like, lost for words. I’m a little emotional. I think it’s a lot to take in. Throughout the competition, I had to remind myself that I am at the Olympic Games, because we don’t have the huge crowd and stuff,” Rooskrantz said from Tokyo on Sunday.
“You have to remind yourself that this is an Olympic Games. But I really, really enjoyed the experience, and I am really happy with where I finished.
“I achieved my personal best today – so, it’s my best score in an international competition – and I think today was the day to do it, at my first Olympic Games.
“I started on the beam, which is quite stressful, and I started off well and carried that through my competition. And I’m really, really happy with my score.”
Daries, also 19 and from Johannesburg, is in 45th spot – 13.300 (vault), 12.366 (uneven bars), 8.933 (balance beam) and 11.766 (floor) – with her overall score of 46.365 affected by a difficult beam performance.
“I am bursting with pride,” Team SA gymnastics coach Ilse Roets Pelser said. “Naveen had a rough start on the beam, but went clean on the next three apparatus. She showed such character and class by shaking off the nerves and recovering well.
“It is not easy starting on beam, but it’s even harder when you are first up on beam. I couldn’t be prouder of how Naveen fought back. What an example she is!
“Caitlin had a clean competition, without falls, and scored an international personal best! Huge for her, considering it’s at the Olympics that she achieved this. She just keeps getting better and better. Her 13.30 on bars will rank her well.
“The pressure at an Olympic Games is on another level, but these two ladies showed respectable performances.”