Gymnast Bianca Zoonekynd grew up in her mother’s gym in Port Elizabeth. She is now preparing — under the tutelage of her mother, Mandy Zoonekynd — to represent South Africa in The World Games in Poland.
Bianca Zoonekynd started doing flick flacks when she was three. Now 25, she is looking forward to representing her country as South Africa’s top female gymnastics tumbling athlete. “I spent most of my time upside down,” Zoonekynd says about her childhood.
She is hard at work practising her tumbling, double mini trampoline and trampoline routines and hopes to take part in The World Games 2017, to be held in Poland on 20-30 July this year. The national gymnastics team that will attend this international event has not been announced yet.
“I currently hold the record for the most difficult routines,” says Zoonekynd. “I like to push myself in this discipline and I hope to break my own record this year.” She brought home a bronze medal in February after winning third place for tumbling at the World Cup gymnastics in Baku, Azerbaijan.
“I only missed second by 0.1 point. I know I can do better routines and didn’t do my most difficult ones today, but I did finish two good clean routines,” she told the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) at the time.
Watch Bianca Zoonekynd in a competition:
She bagged two gold medals in women’s open tumbling and double mini trampoline at the Coimbra Cup in July last year in Portugal. Then, in September, she was named African Champion in the women’s open double mini tumbling and was placed in trampoline at the 13th African Gymnastics Championships held in Walvis Bay in Namibia.
Zoonekynd finished third in the ladies tumbling finals at the 2011 Trampoline Gymnastics World Cup in September 2011 in Salzgitter, Germany.
In the South African Games, she is the Olympic development trampoline champion. Zoonekynd is also the World Games development double mini champion in the country and the South African Double Mini and Tumbling Champion.
She is also the South African Tumbling and Trampoline Athletes representative.
Brand South Africa journalist Melissa Javan spoke to Bianca Zoonekynd.
Melissa Javan: Tell me about your family and their involvement in gymnastics.
Bianca Zoonekynd: My mother, Mandy Zoonekynd, was an elite artistic gymnast and Eastern Cape springboard diver. She started coaching at Penny Anderson’s club when she was young. My mom was then asked to open a club at one of the local schools in Port Elizabeth and from there it grew.
My two brothers and I grew up in the gym — all three of us started with artistic gymnastics. My mom then decided to move on to coaching tumbling and trampoline, in which all of us excelled. My oldest brother, Damon Budler (34), was an Eastern Cape champion. Lee Budler (32) and I competed internationally from the age of 10.
MJ: How many hours a day do you practise?
BZ: Three hours a day.
MJ: When did you starting doing flips in the air, and how long did it take you to learn tumbling gymnastics?
BZ: I was doing flick flacks at the age of three; I spent most of my time upside down.
MJ: How did you feel when you finally could do that on your own?
BZ: It feels pretty cool being able to do things most people can’t.
MJ: Tell us about the training you give at your mother’s gym, your community work.
BZ: I have a group of about 10 kids whom I coach in tumbling, double mini trampoline and trampoline. My mom sponsors community gymnasts in our classes at the club.
MJ: How many hours a week do you coach?
BZ: My class comes in twice a week for an hour and a half. I am unable to do more classes at the moment because of my training schedule.
MJ: What have you learned while training others?
BZ: All children are different and require individual attention. They have also taught me to have lots of patience.
MJ: How do you train yourself mentally, especially ahead of a tournament?
BZ: I do a lot of visualisation — seeing myself do my routines and then going through them over and over again. In this sport you never know what can happen, no matter how many times you have done it mentally and physically.
MJ: You have said that gymnastics is about repetition and it can get quite boring. How do you stay motivated?
BZ: It’s difficult to keep motivated, especially when I have to do the same thing over and over again. It’s about the reward at the end — when you get to stand on the competition floor with the best in the world representing my country.
Also, being a role model to the children I coach and (who) train with me is a motivation for me.
MJ: Your worst injury was a broken hand, which you got while playing around on an exercise ball. When was that?
BZ: We were practising for our end of year display in December 2015 and I was playing on the ball doing back somersaults off the ball.
It was an easy thing to do as I played with it often, and for some reason I didn’t get the pop off the ball and rolled off and landed on my hand. Obviously, everyone laughed at me. I then got shouted at for messing around and told I must back into my place for the display.
MJ: How did that affect your gymnastics?
BZ: Luckily it was the end of the year and I was able to take some time off. When we got back to training it wasn’t really a problem because I don’t really use my hands and could work around it.
When Zoonekynd is not in the gym, she works as a bartender on some weekends. Her other love is being a horse riding instructor.
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