South African gymnast Julene Van Rooyen remains positive despite being unable to compete in the Universiade this year
KAZAN – Julene Van Rooyen looks forlornly out across the Rhythmic Gymnastics hall, wishing she was dressed in her glittering costume, performing with her favourite apparatus, the ball, in front of the ecstatic audience in the individual All-around event.
The 20-year old University of Pretoria student extended her Sports Science degree to five years to focus on training for the Summer Universiade in Kazan.
Yet just a day after arriving in Russia, in her first hour of practise, Van Rooyen felt an unbearable pain. After being examined by doctors, Van Rooyen was rushed to the hospital to have her appendix removed.
“If we waited any longer, it would have burst,” the rhythmic gymnast said.
Van Rooyen spent the next four days in hospital, with all hopes of competing at the Universiade dashed.
“I am really disappointed. I gave up so much to be here,” the South African said.
The young athlete still has a broad smile on her face however, describing how she has still thoroughly enjoyed the experience of the Universiade.
“I’m glad they didn’t send me home early,” she laughs, saying how she has really enjoyed being in the Universiade Village and rubbing shoulders with athletes from across the globe.
Her stand-out moment in Kazan so far was when she sat in the same bus with her hero – Belarusian Olympic bronze-medalist gymnast Liubov Charkashyna.
“I couldn’t believe it – she was right there!” Van Rooyen beamed.
Van Rooyen was impressed with the opening day’s performances of the gymnastics at the Universiade, and is eager to recover and be back on the mat soon – she will compete at the World Championships in Ukraine in August, and is aiming for African Championship and Commonwealth glory next year.
A heartbreaking Universiade for Van Rooyen, but a bright future awaits the positive and talented gymnast.
Fabio De Dominicis/FISU Young Reporter (RSA)