Gymnast, 67, gears up for seventh World Gymnaestrada

Cornelia “Connie” Esau, 67, from Westridge, is part of the SA squad that will take part in the World Gymnaestrada in Amsterdam at the end of the month. This will be her seventh appearance at the World Gymnaestrada, her first being in 1975, in Berlin, in a then divided East and West Germany. In her last appearance at a world gymnaestrada, in 2019, in Austria, Esau was the official flag bearer for Team South Africa.

Still going strong… Connie Esau. Picture Fuad Esack

The spirited gymnast, a long-time member of the Athlone-based Bemur Gymnastics and Dance Club and her teammates thrilled the audience at a special showcase, at Athlone civic centre, at the weekend.

Sunday’s showcase featured members of the Western Cape Gymnaestrada team that will be travelling to Amsterdam for the World Gymnaestrada at the end of the month as part of the SA team. The audience got a taste of the routine they will perform in Amsterdam.

The oldest member of the squad travelling to Amsterdam, Esau, was introduced to gymnastics by her husband Patrick. The two have been married for 46 years and has been living in Mitchell’s Plain for 45 years. Both are still very much involved with gymnastics and were part of the squad that travelled to Germany in 1975.

“ I grew up in Kensington and did modern jazz before staring gymnastics at Shawco (the Students Health and Welfare Centres Organisation, a student-run NGO based at the University of Cape Town). I was was about 17 at the time,” she said.

“Later, we trained at the old Wesley Training College, in Salt River. At the time, I did artistic gymnastics. I did everything from the beam, to bars to vaulting, but my favourite apparatus was the rings. At the time women were still allowed to do rings but these days only men do,” she said.

“So why do I keep on doing it? It’s because of my love and dedication to gymnastics,” the mother of two daughters and four grandchildren said.

In a voice note, following Sunday’s gymnastics showcase at Athlone civic centre, her 4-year-old grandson expresses his thoughts on his Ma’s performance. “Ma, you are my favourite dancer. You were fantastic,” he said.

Gym buddies… From left, Cornelia “Connie” Esau, from Westridge, Zubeida Daniels, from Rocklands and Portland’s Lavona Dirk following Sunday’s showcase at Athlone civic centre. Picture: Fuad Esack