Two years ago, Jireh van Staden was officially not participating in any sport, but he is love for jumping led to him winning a gold medal at the recent African Junior Trampoline Championships in Cairo.
The Pretoria gymnast along with Siyabulela Siwa, Luka Angileri and Enzo Henning won gold in the team competition. The 14-year old was fourth in the individual double mini-competition.
Van Staden, who is doing home-schooling, said the only real exercise he got two years ago was bouncing around on a mini-trampoline at home. His mom suggested that he should take it up as a sport. At first, he refused as he considered it to be boring but later on, after doing some research, he reconsidered and joined the Tuks Trampoline Club.
Lucky Radebe, a former African champion who finished seventh at the 2009 World Games and participated at the 2014 World Championships, started to coach him.
One of the first things Radebe taught his young protégée was that it is not about jumping as high as you can while trying doing backwards and forwards somersaults.
“To be successful in trampoline means you need to be strong and flexible but you should also have good body control and body awareness,” said Radebe after the team returned from Cairo.
According to Radebe the sport basically boils down to being fearless and having mind control. The human body is capable of amazing feats if the mind allows it certain freedom.
“It is a myth that the higher you jump, the better you will perform. I average about five to six metres, the same as a pole vaulter when I train or compete. It is all about body control. Good technique is of the utmost importance,” explained Radebe.
Van Staden turned out to be an astute student of the sport often training five hours a day.
The challenge Van Staden set himself this year is to try and master the triple somersault. If he can do so, he could be a definite medal contender at next year’s African Championships.
“At the moment I can execute the triple somersault during training, but my technique is not yet what it should be. In my sport, it is all about perfect execution. There is no margin for error. I am still battling to get to the correct height before I start tumbling. A metre to high or too low could lead to me landing flat on my face,” said the proud young champion.
For now, Radebe does not want the youngster to get to be obsessed with winning.
“He is has got time on his side so the most important thing at the moment is that he should enjoy what he is doing. The results will come once he gains more confidence on the trampoline and in his abilities,” Radebe concluded.
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