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Ashleigh’s Games tester

South African women’s artistic gymnast, Ashleigh Heldsinger, this week competes at the London Olympics Test Event as she bids to seal a place for this year’s Games.

The event, called the Visa International Gymnastics, is part of the London Olympics Prepares Series. This event is the final opportunity for gymnasts in artistic, rhythmic and trampoline to qualify for the Games. The weeklong event will be staged at the North Greenwich Arena in London.

Seventeen-year-old Heldsinger, who hails from Roodepoort, Gauteng, is the only SA Olympic hopeful, with no other current gymnasts (some through injury) able to potentially qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games. Just 324 gymnasts world-wide will have the opportunity to represent gymnastics at the Olympic Games ÔÇô┬á196 in artistic, 96 in rhythmic and 32 in trampoline. After completing the Test Event, Ashleigh is hoping to achieve FIG (International Gymnastics Federation) qualifying criteria to compete at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Elite gymnastics in South Africa is still in a developmental phase, with strong international competition to contend with. Also, not all gymnasts are able to make it to the highest level in gymnastics; therefore, qualification for the Olympics in itself would be an immense achievement by a South African gymnast.

Coached by Ilse Laing at the Johannesburg Gymnastics Centre and with 12 years of gymnastics training under her belt, Ashleigh is on the brink of realising her ultimate dream of competing at an Olympic Games.

Other highlights in her career thus far have been competing at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India, where she finished 10th overall and attained sixth position on floor. The women’s artistic gymnastics qualifications for the Test Event will get underway on Wednesday.

But Heldsinger is not the only South African representation at the Test Event. In addition rhythmic gymnastics judge, Elsie Annette Nel, will be doing duty as a reference judge.


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