This year’s African Championships got off to a rough start with back-to-back injuries to two gymnasts from the host nation, but overall the 13th annual event showed real promise that exists on the continent.
Algerian gymnasts Farah Boufadene and Meriem Minighed both suffered injuries on vault during the team and all-around competition, with Boufadene aggravating her lower back causing her to unfortunately withdraw from the competition she was expected to lead, and Minighed fracturing her tibia and fibula.
Following the injuries, Algeria couldn’t field a full team and fell out of contention for the top of the podium, instead finishing third with a 55.15. Instead it was Egypt that came through ahead of the South African women, 153.65 to 150.75 after some especially strong work from Sherine El-Zeiny, a two-time Olympian who came up through the Dutch system and switched to an Egyptian nationality in 2007. She trains with current Dutch standout Eythora Thorsdottir and Egyptian teammate Mandy Mohamed at SV Pax in Hoofddorp.
El-Zeiny was the top all-arounder at the competition, posting a 52.4 and possibly securing one of Africa’s universality spots for this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Claudia Cummins of South Africa finished behind her with a 51.9 while Kirsten Beckett was the bronze medalist with a 50.25.
Egypt also dominated most of the event finals, with first-year senior Rahaf Armia Zakaria winning bars with a 13.133, Nada Ayman Ibrahim winning beam with a 13.133, and Mohamed winning floor with a 13.6. Additionally, Mai Ahmed Saad won the vault bronze averaging 12.966.
The South African women dominated the remainder of the finals, with Beckett winning gold on vault averaging 13.549, floor silver with a 13.233, and bars bronze with a 12.5. Cummins medaled on each of the events, including silvers on vault (13.066) and bars (12.866) and bronze medals on beam (12.0) and floor (13.166), while Lukisha Schalk won the silver medal on beam with a 12.5 in her senior international debut.
In the junior field, Egypt saw more success, winning the team title with a 148.3 and picking up two of the all-around medals. Farah Hussein was the gold medalist with a 50.55 while Farah Salem won the bronze with a 48.75.
Between the Egyptians with the silver medal was Caitlin Rooskrantz of South Africa with a 49.45. Rooskrantz also helped her team to a silver medal, with the South Africans earning a 146.4 to place ahead of Morocco with a 119.4 and Algeria with a 116.85.
Donattela Sacci, vice president of the FIG women’s technical committee, was pleased with the level of competition at this year’s championships, noting that the “great margin of progression of different styles of gymnastics in Africa” was especially pleasing.
Article by Lauren Hopkins