Flag-bearer Rooskrantz relishes historic moment in SA sport

Published Jul 11, 2024


CAITLIN Rooskrantz did not see it coming, not with so many athletics and swimming stars making up a significant number of Team South Africa for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

“I feel super-excited and super-proud,” the artistic gymnast said of her appointment as the country’s flag-bearer for the opening ceremony at the Games taking place in the French capital later this month. She will be partnered by renowned sprinter Akani Simbine.

“It’s definitely not something I would have dreamt about. I did not see it coming,” the 22-year-old said on Tuesday night at Sascoc’s official Team SA send-off dinner in Kempton Park. “But I am super-excited nevertheless. I am excited to represent gymnastics and South Africa as a whole to lead us into the Games.”

The first South African female gymnast of colour to qualify outright for the Olympic Games, Rooskrantz sees her appointment to the sought-after role as a historic moment for the sport.

“This is big for gymnastics. As we know, it is usually the runners or swimmers that are picked to carry the flag, hence I did not even expect it was a possibility. To hear my name being called was a realisation, history was made tonight. For the first time an SA gymnast is going to be a flag-bearer – that is a statement in itself where gymnastics is going. We are only on an upward trajectory and we should make sure it continues.”

And she intends playing her role by improving on her previous performance in Tokyo where she placed 61st overall.

“Our biggest goal is to better the bar every year and go up in the rankings. I cannot say how I rank myself against the opposition but I am looking to improve on my Tokyo rankings.”

Though not as renowned as Simbine, Rooskrantz has done fairly well in the sport, having become the first South African medallist in uneven bars with her bronze in the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games. Along with Naveen Daries, she placed fourth in the team event at those Games and a year later she won gold at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Cup in Cairo.

“I’ve broken a couple of glass ceilings (in gymnastics) and the future is so bright (for those coming up after me) and I hope they will be able to do well in the next few years. As South Africa, we have made big strides. When we started out, we were not anywhere in the world rankings but my teammates and I have made strides and moved up the rankings.”

She credited her growth in the sport to the support the gymnasts are receiving from the mother body, Gymnastics SA.

“We have had a lot of support. The federation made it possible for us to do training camps around the world where we were getting expert opinions and that has taken us a bit further. And competing internationally has helped because we have seen that competition experience is the most important thing. Picking up a Commonwealth medal was testament to all the hard work, not just for me but as a federation.”

And no doubt her appointment as a flag-bearer for Team South Africa in Paris is confirmation that hers and gymnastics’ strides on the international scene is being noticed.