Caitlin Rooskrantz. Photo: Supplied.
As a child, Caitlin Rooskrantz exerted so much energy climbing any object to which her tiny limbs could cling, her parents took her to gymnastics lessons just to calm her down.
“I was jumping around, climbing door frames and constantly putting myself in dangerous situations, and my parents didn’t know how to control me,” Rooskrantz recalls.
“A friend of theirs recommended it as a way for me to release energy, so I started at the age of six.
“It became a passion and I’ve never looked back.”
A little more than a decade down the line, and she’s no longer wasting energy on acrobatic antics around the house.
Instead, Rooskrantz spends most of her time juggling two immense tasks, one of which is nearly complete, while the other is expected to consume her every waking moment next year.
Though it has absorbed much of her free time in recent months, the 17-year-old artistic gymnast will start her matric exams next week, and by the end of the year that will be one thing she can tick of her ‘to do’ list.
The other major task at hand, however, will then become goal No 1, with Rooskrantz recently qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“It’s been quite hectic this whole year because it has been the biggest year of my schooling and my gym careers,” she says.
“But because I’ve dealt with such high training hours from the beginning of high school, I learned how to manage it quite early.
“I train four-and-a-half hours a day, six days a week, and five days a week I’m at school, but being involved at such a high level in sport has taught me a lot of discipline and I’ve learned to manage my time well.”
Born and raised in Joburg, the Parktown Girls High pupil recovered from a fall on beam to take 68th position in the all-round competition at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart earlier this month, with a score of 49.466.
Though she did not progress to the medal contest, Rooskrantz edged out compatriot Naveen Daries, who finished 70th with a score of 49.399, securing her spot at the Tokyo Games.
Competing for a strong national team under coach Ilse Pelser, Rooskrantz became the first South African woman to qualify for the Olympics in artistic gymnastics since Zandre Labuschagne competed at the 2004 Games in Athens.
“It almost seemed like an unrealistic goal when I was growing up,” she says of her achievement.
“But the closer I got to it and saw I really had a chance, I worked and really pushed as hard as I could, and to know I’ve achieved a childhood dream is amazing.”
After getting her high school career out the way, she hopes to be able to arrive at the Tokyo Games fit and ready next season.
“Injuries are so common in gymnastics. You pick them up so easily, and I’ve had my fair share,” she says.
“So my main goal is to get there fresh and healthy so I can compete at my best, and I just want to have a good, clean competition with no falls because that’s always the goal.
“And I just really want to enjoy it.”
While gymnasts are traditionally among the youngest elite athletes at the Olympics, with teenagers often making up much of the line-up, Rooskrantz believes she will have another chance to compete at the quadrennial spectacle in Paris in 2024.
With 22-year-old American star Simone Biles proving that more experienced athletes could still compete at the highest level by winning her fifth all-round world title in Stuttgart, Rooskrantz is confident that age remains on her side.
“The way the sport is moving, the gymnasts are getting older,” she says.
“And I definitely feel at the age of 17, I have another five years in me, at the very least.”
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