The 2021 Momentum gsport Awards was significant for gymnastics in South Africa as the sporting code stole the show, winning three major awards, including the Telkom Woman of the Year award, which was won by Gymnastics SA CEO Anne Vermaak.
Vermaak leads from the front and her hard work has not gone unnoticed. She also proudly accepted the Federation of the Year award on behalf of Gymnastics South Africa and watched with a smile on her face as Olympian Naveen Daries won Emerging Athlete of the Year.
Covid-19 has put immense pressure on sports federations and Gymnastics South Africa, led by Vermaak, found a way to embrace a new normal. In the past year, the federation managed to successfully launch the inaugural Rope Skipping in a Box and Skipnation programmes which aims to develop basic physical exercise into South African schools.
The cherry on top was the historic moment of having two women represent the country at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in gymnastics.
Vermaak stresses the important role sports administrators play in the growth of sport and says she would like to see more unsung heroines celebrated. She has also mentioned the importance of Government and Corporate support in the develop and sustainability of the sport.
The Gymnastics SA CEO has laid a strong foundation for gymnastics and is looking to continuing building and growing the sport in working towards their 2030 strategy which they have already started implementing.
The Telkom Woman of the year winner speaks to Babsie Kutwana about walking away with this prestigious award and her thoughts on what the future holds for gymnastics in South Africa.
Hi Anne, congratulations on winning the Telkom Woman of the year Award. What does this award mean to you?
Wow, I am truly humbled by this award, especially when I look at the other nominees. The last two years have been very challenging, both personally and, in the federation, so I am proud that our hard work not gone unnoticed. Winning this award emphasises a belief I’ve always held on to and that is – no person truly succeeds alone, and certainly no mother can lead an organization without an amazing support system. For some, that support system are friends and family, amazing colleagues and people who share your vision.
In my case I have the full support of my husband and my children, as well as my parents, who are my biggest role models. I am blessed with an incredible support base of friends, an amazing team at work, an incredible Executive, led by a President who is an amazing mentor, and an entire organization that is truly a family. This award is testament to any little girl out there that you have the ability to change the world, one step and one person at a time, using the skills you learn in Gymnastics.
How can we encourage and inspire more women sports administrators?
We must have more awards like these even at community level. I know there are hundreds of other unsung heroines doing amazing things in sports administration with limited resources. We need more ways to celebrate the women who are succeeding. We must also recognise that there are many obstacles for women to overcome including gender stereotyping about the role of women in sport. This will not disappear unless we raise awareness, empower women and create more opportunities for women in the boardrooms of sport.
Gymnastics SA won three out of the four categories that they were shortlisted in: Telkom Woman of the year, Emerging athlete, and Federation of the year for the second consecutive year. How do you feel this recognition will positively impact gymnastics in SA going forward?
We hope that the publicity these awards generate will reach the hearts of all young South Africans who dream of reaching their goals. There are many misconceptions about what Gymnastics is. Some think that gymnastics is only Artistic, Rhythmic and Trampolining Gymnastics that we see at the Olympics. We hope that this recognition will go a long way to convince the people of SA, the corporate world and even Government that Gymnastics is for everyone.
We have a vision and a plan to take gymnastics into every school and to every community. We have a dream to fight poverty, improve health and fight other social ills through gymnastics. We believe with a passion that we can develop well rounded, both physically and mentally, active citizens of all ages, who achieve their goals through gymnastics. Awards such as these means that we are being taken seriously, that we are just not a “Cinderella Sport”. Now we need the corporate world to recognise that there are sports worthy of significant support besides soccer, rugby, and cricket.
How do you plan to further amplify the growth of gymnastics within South African and the youth?
We have already started to implement some exciting plans to take some forms of gymnastics into schools and communities. This is part of our 2030 strategy which we will continue to implement. To reach more communities, we need more support. Just this past year we’ve launched our Rope Skipping in a Box and Skipnation programmes aimed at establishing basic physical exercise at thousands of schools across South Africa. Our aim is to reach 25 000 schools over the next few years.
We are also hard at work planning for the 2023 World Gymnaestrada, set to take place in Amsterdam in two years’ time. This sporting and cultural event is open to all South Africans and we’re hoping to again take a big contingent to the event. We are also bidding to host the 2023 African Continental qualification and the 2023 Down Syndrome World Championships. We have recently finalised our 2030 Strategy, a comprehensive plan to ensure that all South Africans have access to the resources they need to live a healthy and successful life. We will continue to implement this plan with the assistance of the National Department of Sports, Arts and Culture and hope the private sector will join us on this journey too.
What support do you need from either the government or sponsors to ensure that you are able to grow the federation even further?
Government, through the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture has played a significant role in the success of Gymnastics South Africa over the past few years. However, we do need the private sector to get involved now. With the help of corporate sponsorships, we will be able to realise our dream of rolling out our programmes to all schools in the country as well as get key projects off the ground and continue to develop more ambassadors to inspire a nation.
Photo Caption: Gymnastics SA CEO Anne Vermaak, walks away with the #gsport16 Telkom Woman of the year award. Vermaak is a woman who leads from the front and her hard work does not go unnoticed as Gymnastics SA walked away with three out of the four categories that they were finalists in, which has the CEO beaming with pride and joy. Photo: gsport