HE flies through the air with the greatest of ease – that’s a good way to describe African junior champion Onke Mangele, a 14-year-old gymnast from Nemato who has taken the world of trampolining by storm over the past year or so, and will be representing South Africa in the Indo Pacific Championships next month.
Mangele is a member of the Nemato Gymnastics Club, itself part of the Nemato Change a Life (NCAL) foundation, specifically designed to help the poorer youth in the Ndlambe community excel academically or in their chosen sports. Mangele is no stranger to Talk of the Town, which has been reporting on his gymnastics career since he began in 2013.
Mangele competed in the Top Ten gymnastics competition in Pretoria earlier this year and brought home gold on the double mini trampoline.
“Many of the routines were more difficult than those any other junior in South Africa is jumping,” said NCAL founder Jan Blom. “It was combined with trials for African Championships and for Indo Pacific Championships in New Zealand.”
Blom’s dreams for Mangele came true at the African Championships, held at Walvis Bay in Namibia from August 28 to September 3 when his mentee brought home two gold medals, one for individual mini tramp in the junior section, and the other as part of the South African team.
“I really enjoyed competing and have made lots of new friends,” said the shy and modest Mangele. “I feel good.”
Next up for the golden boy is a trip to Cape Town for the national championships, then it’s off to Namibia again for the Junior Commonwealth Games and finally, the Indo Pacific Championships in New Zealand in October where Mangele is touted to top the medal tables in the trampoline events.
“We are all very proud of Onke,” said Blom, who also had a discussion with Gideon Sam, president of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) at the African Championships.
“Gideon was very impressed, and said that Onke was the best gymnast on the trampoline in the country at the moment and has excellent potential to reach Olympic gold in Tokyo in 2020.”
In fact, another up-and-coming gymnast with equal potential is also a member of the Nemato Gymnastics Club, Khanyile Mbolekwa.
“Gideon said that Khanyile also had great ‘Olympic potential’,” said Blom.
However, sending gymnasts to these events is a very expensive exercise, and has already cost the club over R100 000 in expenses.
“It would be nice to have some sponsorship from local businesses in order for us to send even more of our talented youngsters to events both in South Africa as well as abroad,” said Blom.
It is also rumoured that the South African Gymnastics Federation might want to set up a high performance facility in Ndlambe, specifically on the strength of the talent based in the area.