History made at the African Artistic Gymnastics Championships

Naveen Daries of South Africa competes on beam during the qualification round of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on October 3, 2017 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Naveen Daries of South Africa competes on beam during the qualification round of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on October 3, 2017 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa all made history at the Cairo-hosted event, in which Tokyo 2020 qualification was at stake.

South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria made history at the two-day African Championships in artistic gymnastics, a Tokyo 2020 qualifier hosted in Cairo, which ended yesterday (27 May).

Nigeria qualified their first-ever gymnast, Uche Eke, and Egypt their first-ever male gymnast, Omar Mohamed, to an Olympic Games. South Africa, meanwhile, qualified two artistic gymnasts to an Olympic Games for the first time, courtesy of Naveen Daries joining compatriot Caitlin Rooskrantz – who had already qualified for the Games in 2019 – in heading to Japan in July.

Historic firsts in the men’s event

Mohamed made sure he didn’t miss his one and only chance to qualify for Tokyo 2020, taking place in 2021, by dominating the men’s event. Competing on home turf, he knew immediately on landing his vault safely on his last piece of apparatus, that he had claimed one of the two spots available at this championships.

His compatriot Zaid Khater, who won silver, missed out on a trip to Japan courtesy of the one gymnast per nation rule in the continental quota system for qualification for Tokyo 2020.

By virtue of coming third, American-born Eke, a 23-year-old who competed for the University of Michigan, claimed the second spot, making history for Nigeria by becoming the first gymnast from his country to qualify for an Olympic Games.

Women’s event

Meanwhile, the women’s competition saw South Africa’s Naveen Daries claim a place at Tokyo 2020, by virtue of winning the all-around competition on Wednesday. Home competitor Zeina Sharaf claimed silver and with it, clinched the second qualification spot available to African women’s gymnasts.

Daries competed alongside her sister Zelme – the first time a South Africa women’s team has been represented by sisters – who won bronze.

Naveen joins compatriot Caitlin Rooskrantz in heading to Japan this summer. It is the first time South African women’s gymnastics have qualified two gymnasts for an Olympics Games, and the first time since 2004 that South African women will feature in artistic gymnastics at the Olympics. Rooskrantz travelled to support the squad but did not compete having already qualified for the XXXII Olympiad.

The two South African medallists will remain in Egypt, in order to attend the World Challenge Cup in Cairo before returning home for final preparations ahead of the Olympic Games.

The artistic gymnastics competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games starts on 24 July 2021.