Creating champions

Creating champions

To become an international gymnastics judge is no mean feat. Gymnast, coach and judge, Christo Malan from Hartbeespoort is one of only five international judges in South Africa and has just returned from Australia where he judged at the Commonwealth Games. He is now fired up to help South African gymnasts excel internationally.

Where did your gymnastics career start?
“ I started doing gymnastics when I was ten. I used to watch gymnastics on television and wanted to do what they were doing… the backflips, the twists, everything! The very first day I walked into the gymnastics club, I told my mother I was going to become a Springbok. And eight years later I did it. My mother used to drive me 120 km per day to gymnastics and back. I fell in love with this sport the moment I started, and I never stopped.”
I was selected for the South African team when I was 18 years old and was part of the Protea team for five years. I represented South Africa at the World Championships and various African Championships where I won silver and bronze medals. I am one of a few qualified men’s Brevet judges in South Africa. I also coach gymnastics at my own club in Hartbeespoort.”

What was the Commonwealth Games like?
“The gymnastic performances were amazing, I would say they were on an Olympic level. You could see that this event took years of planning. The opening and closing ceremonies were spectacular. I was so proud to represent South Africa. It was such an honour to be a judge at this prestigious competition. Australia is very much like South Africa, the weather is identical.
What is your focus now after this experience?
“My immediate focus is to get my club to national and even maybe international level. I am convinced that with hard work we can achieve it. I want my gymnastics club to be the best in South Africa and I can only do that if I create a love for gymnastics in the children. I want them to have fun, but also to reap the benefits of gymnastics by being committed and disciplined.”

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
“Definitely competing in the World Championships. There is just nothing like it.”

Why did you stop competing?
“Gymnastics at a competitive level requires a tremendous amount of time. I was practising six hours a day, every day, and six years ago I realised I had to generate an income as well. I did not want to do anything else but gymnastics, so I opened a club and started judging.

Do you miss competing professionally?
“I can’t even begin to explain how much. Gymnastics is my life, but I stay involved through coaching and judging.”

…I told my mother I was going to become a Springbok. And eight years later I did it.

What motivates you?
“To see how children enjoy the sport and flourish when they manage to land that difficult movement they have been working so hard to master.”
Up until now about ten of my students have won gold at South African championships.

Did you have to make sacrifices to get where you are?
“Yes I did. I liked playing cricket and rugby but had to give it up in order to compete in gymnastics. This sport takes up a lot of your time and while my friends were having social lives, I was in the gym, practising for competitions.”

Your advice for budding gymnasts who have dreams of competing on international level?
“One has to love gymnastics and realise that this sport demands a lot of sacrifices. It is very hard work and you need to be dedicated and motivated. Failures along the way must be handled with even harder work. Work hard and stay committed, and you will succeed.”

Would you recommend gymnastics as a sport for children?
“Definitely. Gymnastics teaches children to concentrate, motivates them and makes them fit and strong. It teaches them skills that they will be able to use in other aspects of their lives.”

What do you do to relax?
“ I absolutely love the outdoors and enjoy fishing and camping. I do deep sea fishing at least once a year.”

Any advice for young gymnasts and parents?
“I want to encourage parents not to just let their children give up on a sport. Give it a year at least. If you learn never to give up, life will never get you down.
Contact Christo on 072 873 5384 and follow his gymnastics club on facebook @ GymnastiXellence.

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