UP gymnast wins silver medal at Olympic Hopes Cup in Czech Republic

Posted on December 09, 2019

Keeping it simple is what enabled 14-year-old UP TuksSport gymnast Phiwe Nhleko to win a silver medal during the recent Olympic Hopes Cup in the Czech Republic.

Nhleko had to keep her wits about her during the competition. She had the lowest score of the eight gymnasts who competed in the uneven bars final. But, when it mattered, she was the one to give a near faultless performance. This was also the first time she competed internationally.

After her victory Nhleko explained to her proud coach how she was able to pull off one of her best performances. "The secret to being successful in gymnastics is not to overthink things. When I was competing, I was not aware of anything happening around me. Only one thing mattered. That was to execute what I practised to perfection."

Louis Fourie, Nhleko’s coach, ascribed her performance to her having a "big-match temperament".

TuksSport gymnast Phiwe Nhleko is hoping for another medal at next year’s African Championships.

From an early age Nhleko was drawn to things that seem humanly impossible. She started doing Monkeynastix when she was four. By the age of six the real challenge began. She realised quite early on that gymnastics is a constant quest for that one moment of absolute perfection.

"You can never rest on your laurels. There is always something you can improve on. Even the way your toes are pointed when you are busy executing a move can be of vital importance. Gymnastics will always be about marginal gains.

"One of the most important lessons I learned is that you can't let your mind dictate to the body what is possible and what not. You’ve got to be fearless. The secret is not to overthink things. It must be like when you are young. Do first and worry later.

"At times, you are going to get things wrong. You might even be injured, but never allow your mind to dwell on it. After a mishap it is vital to get back to doing what you did, until you get it right."

Not surprisingly, Nhleko views US gymnast Simone Biles as a role model. Biles has won 25 world championship medals, of which 19 are gold, making her the most decorated gymnast of all time. She is also the 2016 Olympic champion.

Nhleko said Biles proved that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it. And that’s what motivates her to put in the long hours, six days a week.

Next up on this star gymnast’s radar is next year’s African Championships – at which she hopes to repeat and improve upon the magic of her Czech Republic performance.

- Author Wilhelm de Swardt

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