On Sunday morning, 18-year-old Caitlin Rooskrantz was meant to make history as SA’s first female artistic gymnast in 15 years to compete in the Olympic Games…

However, her plans were put on hold thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.

So on the same day she would have been competing in Tokyo, Sanlam gave Rooskrantz the chance to make some new plans: by live streaming her medal-worthy routine.

“Caitlin is an extraordinary athlete and an inspiring example for us all,” said Sanlam’s Head of Brand, Mariska Oosthuizen. “Her unwavering commitment and positive attitude is infectious.”

Thousands of South Africans tuned in to watch the performance

Live streamed at 10am, thousands of South Africans from all walks of life and every corner of the nation cheered Rooskrantz on from the other side of their screens as she performed her Olympic routine.

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Slowly approaching the bars, softly whispering under her breath as she walked, the backdrop felt as unfamiliar and surreal as the circumstances we all now find ourselves in. As she took one final deep breath and bravely stepped up to the mat, one could cut the tension with a knife.

Then flinging from one bar to the next in a near-perfect routine that culminated with a 10/10 landing, the smile that spread across Rooskrantz’s face quickly spread across the nation’s too. And whilst the lone applause of her coach echoed through the empty space, in homes across SA, the cheers were resounding.

#TheOlympian trends on social media

By midday, the hashtags #TheOlympian and #CaitlinRooskrantz were trending on social media, and for a brief while at least, there was some good news we could all unite behind.

“I am so proud of Caitlin’s routine,” said coach Ilse Pelser. Having trained Rooskrantz since she first took an interest in gymnastics at the age of 6, it was only fitting that Ilse would be right beside her as the nation watched her step up to the bars. “Years and years of hard work are paying off,” Ilse continued, “It was fantastic being out there with her – to see her do one of the best routines of her life.”

Mom beamed with pride

Watching from the side-lines, mom, Veda, is not only Rooskrantz’s fiercest supporter, but her greatest inspiration too.

Having single-handedly raised and supported her two kids after her husband (and Caitlin’s father) passed away some 12 years ago, the live stream was a special milestone for the family. “It wasn’t easy getting to this point, but it was so worth it. Watching her today, and seeing her efforts celebrated across the country, I felt so proud of how far she has come – it’s exceeded our every expectation!”

Reflecting on the live stream of her routine, and South Africa’s overwhelmingly positive response to it, Rooskrantz expressed her elation and relief. “I’m over the moon. I was nervous about it, but I gave it my best and I’m so proud of the end result – especially considering that I’ve been in lockdown for over 3 months and have only been back training for a month. I’m so grateful to Sanlam for this incredible opportunity, and I’m more motivated than ever. The dream hasn’t changed, only the timeline.”

Read some of the comments on social media following Rooskrantz’s live stream: