My name is Caitlin Rooskrantz, and I am an artistic gymnast who went up Parktown Girls High. My choice of school was pretty straightforward, as my late father worked at Parktown Girls High, and I had gone to the feeder school growing up. It was inevitable that I would go to Parktown, and coming from a feeder school definitely helped a bit on a daunting first day of high school.

That initial feeling of having been a big fish in a small pond at primary school, and then coming into a big school as a little junior was definitely intimidating. I had a few friends who came with me from primary school which was quite nice, but that first day experience was still intimidating!

I’m quite a social person, so I made a few friends right away, but there were mixed emotions of excitement and intimidation. Looking back now, I realise that I didn’t enjoy high school as much as I could have, but those were definitely some awesome times.

I recently qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, which is the first time a South African artistic gymnast has qualified since 2004. I’m massively excited and proud to represent my country and realise a lifelong dream, but the journey to this point has meant that I didn’t always enjoy the normal school activities that everyone does.

I started gymnastics at the age of six, after friends of my parents had suggested that they take my boundless energy and take it to a class. I fell in love with the sport right away, and it’s crazy to think how far it had taken me.

It reiterates the power of sport, but also the importance of a support system. My family has been massive in that regard, especially my mom. She sacrificed so much to allow me to pursue my dream and make the most of my talent.

I never played team sports in high school. In fact, I never played any other sport in high school, because gymnastics is so demanding that all my time is taken up by it. When I was in primary school, I used to live swimming and athletics, as well as netball. It’s hard to even remember what it’s like to be in a team sport environment, because I’ve always had to be self-reliant for most of my gymnastic career.

One thing I did enjoy about Parktown Girls High was the special activities they had that fell during class time. Things like swimming galas and inter school matches were always an awesome experience for me to watch. They were a lot of fun, and reminded me of my team sport days.

I’ve never really had a proper nickname in school, though most people referred to me as The Gymnast. There were quite a few Caitlins in my school, so the easiest way for people to identify me was as Caitlin the gymnast!

I really did enjoy my time at Parktown, and my favourite subject was actually P. E.! In terms of actual school work, a subject I really enjoyed was Biology. I was fascinated to learn so much about the human body. Even though I loved biology, I’m actually looking to study something in sports marketing!

  1. E. was awesome for me because it helped me get in shape. My training is specialised, so a lot of the normal routines can become boring. When I was in grade 11, we got a new P. E. teacher, Miss White. I really enjoyed her classes because she was very sporty herself, and would make the exercises interesting and challenging!

My sporting idol or someone I look up to is two fold. When I was developing as a gymnast, a great mentor was Claudia Cummins, a South African gymnast we used to train with. She was my first role model, and I really looked up to her. She went to two Commonwealth Games, as well as qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Unfortunately, SASCOC didn’t send her to Rio. But she was always encouraging and willing to help, and I really appreciated her for that. She would comfort us when we got injured, and encourage us to always finish each program. In gymnastics, you will fall many times before you get things right, so you have to keep trying. It teaches you resilience and not being in a team means that it is all on you. My other role model is Elisabeth Seitz, the world bronze medallist who has had multiple injuries. I’ve had one surgery and she’s had four! But, her attitude and commitment are great traits, and I relate to her story a lot. I was lucky enough to be chosen along with my training partner to spend time with the German national team, training. I got to see Elisabeth at close quarters, and it was an amazing experience. Being a gymnast means I’ve missed out on a lot of normal school things, but I did make a lot of friends, who were always happy to hear of my progress. Parktown is a great school, with a huge reputation, and it was a wonderful place to go to high school. I want to say I remember the school song, but it was very long, and it took a long time for us to even learn it while we were at school. Maybe I could remember it if I heard it – or sang it with a friend!

I really loved my time at Parktown Girls High, and I will always cherish the memories and friends that I made there. I hope to always keep flying their flag proudly!