Meet Mphoentle Mokhele, an effervescent 12 year old who regards the world’s fastest sprinter Usain Bolt, as one of athletes she looks up to.
You see, Mphoentle does something totally different from other kids: she’s a Prima Rhythmic Gymnast champion.
Currently, the Risidale Primary School and Grade 7 pupil, was crowned the Inter Provincial Novice Champion at the CGGA Competitions held at Northcliff, Gauteng, were she beat other contenders from Limpopo, Western Cape, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga and the North West Provinces.
As a member of the Gauteng Central Athletics, she works hard in everything and her winning is testament to that.
“I was very excited when they called my name as the overall winner in my level, however, I was more thrilled when I realized that I was the overall winner in the entire competition,” says the excited ‘Entle’ as she’s popularly regaled by schoolmates.
Legend has it that, when the bug has bitten, there’s no turning back and ‘Entle’ grew to love Gymnastics at an early age of 6, by joining the Johannesburg Gymnastics Club (JGC).
In 2014, at the age of 10, she qualified to represent the club at the United States Association of Independent Gymnastics Clubs (USAIGC) Championships in Orlando, Florida USA, where she obtained a Bronze medal.
But that had its own challenges as funds were dry.
But, her single Mum Naomi Mokhele, whom she speaks highly of, came to the rescue and managed to raise R50 000 needed to make it to the championships.
“My mom had to sacrifice a lot to make sure that I travel with the team. I don’t think it was easy for her to arrange all the travel money, which she told me was around R50 000. I qualified in April 2014 and in June 2014 we were leaving, but God helped her to put everything together in time for my trip. I’m very proud of her,” she enthuses.
As a result, she has garnered over 30 medals alternating between Artistic Gymnastics and Rhythmic Gymnastics.
“Both disciplines differ as Rhythmic Gymnastics you use 5 apparatus which are a ribbon, clubs, hoop, ball and rope which you use to do various rhythmic patterns. You need lots of flexibility to do the splits, and turns and backward walk overs.
Artistic Gymnastics you do 4 apparatus which is bar, beam, floor and vault and requires more training as such as forward layouts and back layouts, that requires a lot of physical strength,” says ‘Entle’ oozing with confidence.
“I support her in every aspect of her life, be it school or gymnastics. She also does athletics and cross-country at school, and plans to take this through to high school.
“Gymnastics is one of the most expensive sports, but through prayer, siblings and friends’ assistance I have managed to overcome all the obstacles. She plans to represent South Africa in the Olympics in future, and I’m 100% supportive of that plan,” quipped Naomi.
Asked what are her ambitions as the world prepares for Rio Olympics 2016, ‘Entle’ who also looks up to Gabby Douglas (Gymnastics) said:” Although I’m not at the level to compete at the 2016 Rio Olympics, my plan is to one day compete in a competition of this calibre.
There is so much passion and dedication towards the work that you see on the athletes and you can see that they are doing this for a good reason not just to win gold, which is to motivate other athletes.
While they have fun while competing and doing their routines, they give me courage to also be the best at my sport.”
As her name suggests Mphoentle- a Sesotho word literally translated ‘beautiful gift’ she’s indeed a rare-breed!
Well folks, we have a budding Gymnast in our midst and its’ upon us to nurture this talent for future Olympics and other international games.