The University of Pretoria (Tuks) rhythmic gymnast Shannon Gardiner is in a race against time to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games…

A few weeks ago, while competing at the South African Championships in Durban, she tore the meniscus in her left knee. She had to undergo an operation.

In the next week or so she will know if she can start training again. This setback means there is one chance left for her to try and qualify. It will be during next year’s Continental Championships.

Gardiner knows the odds are stacked against her, but she will never forsake on her Olympic dream.

“I, however, got to realise it all about taking it one step at a time. My doctor has first to give me the go-ahead to resume training. I can’t tell you how frustrating the last few weeks had been.

“I am literally dying because I am so bored. I got no clue as to what to do with myself,” explains the 20-year old BCom Law student.

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“I think gymnastics is something that is embedded in my DNA.  It is the thrill of stepping onto the carpet at a major international competition and getting the opportunity to show people what I can do that gets my adrenaline pumping. I get goosebumps talking about it.”

Rhythmic gymnastics is a sport that combines elements of ballet, gymnastics, dance and apparatus manipulation. During a competition, the gymnasts get to do routines with the rope, hoop, ball, clubs, ribbon and freehand.

IN ACTION… Tuks rhythmic gymnast Shannon Gardiner. Pic: Reg Caldecott ;

Plan ahead

“The secret to our sport is to always have a Plan A, Plan B or Plan C when competing because when you throw the apparatus, it might be a bit askew, but you cannot alert the judges that you made a mistake. You continue as if it was meant to happen. That is a trick a lot of gymnasts miss.”

The Tuks gymnast competed in Europe before getting injured. According to her, she had a chance to medal during a competition in Portugal, but she messed up at a crucial stage.

“I was off to good start during the World Championships in Azerbaijan. I achieved personal bests in my hoop and ball routines. Unfortunately, I made one mistake with the ribbon. That hit me hard. The reality is you cannot afford to make one mistake during an international competition. My last two routines were not bad but then also not quite good enough.”

ON THE MEND… Tuks rhythmic gymnast Shannon Gardiner. Pic: Reg Caldecott;

One of Gardiner’s biggest disappointments was not competing at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games

At the time she was in the form of her life. According to her if she were able to replicate her best performance before the Games, she would have had a realistic chance to medal.

“I realise it serves no purpose to think back about what could have been. What happened. There is no ever turning back the clock. It is always about the now. That is why I am only focused on trying to qualify for the Tokyo Games.

“If I don’t make it, I will at least be able to say that I tried. Hopefully, my performances will inspire young gymnasts to also dream about representing South Africa at the Olympics.”

Author: ANA Newswire