Township teenager eyes Olympic gold

A high-flying township teenager has set his sights on winning Olympic trampoline gold after cleaning up at the All Africa Games despite not having proper equipment to train on.

The sky is the limit for talented Port Alfred gymnast Onke Mangele after he won the double trampoline for the second year in a row in the competitive under-18 division in Namibia at the weekend.

He also scooped team gold and a bronze at the prestigious event.

“I love gymnastics so much that it does not matter if we do not have proper equipment or a place to train,” he said yesterday.

What makes the high-flying 14-year-old orphan’s achievement even more remarkable is that he does not have access to a double trampoline during the week and has to trek more than 300km every weekend to practise.

Despite having the odds stacked against him, Onke is so determined to become the best in the world that he trains every day in the dusty back yard of the award-winning Nemato Change-a-life (NCAL) youth development project on a single trampoline.

“My dream is to one day win South Africa’s first gold medal in the trampoline. I am not going to let small things like no equipment stop me.”

NCAL founder Jan Blom, who used to coach top-flight rowing in Holland before moving to Port Alfred to start up a youth project here, said yesterday he was proud of what Onke and several other young local gymnasts had achieved on a shoestring budget.

“It is amazing what Onke has achieved without proper full-time coaching or equipment,” Blom said.