Maureen van Rooyen is a well known figure within South African Rhythmic Gymnastics. Together with Isabel van Achterberg, she has been instrumental in establishing and growing Rhythmic Gymnastics in South Africa as we know it today.
Maureen has had a tremendous journey starting as a High School Teacher to becoming a successful Business Owner. She has been a South African National Coach as well as a Brevet Judge for a number of years.
Her Club, Gold Reef Rhythmic Gymnastics, has to date produced the majority of South African Junior and Senior National team members. Maureen's most notable achievements include attending two Olympic Games as a Coach with her gymnasts, Stephanie Sandler - 2004 Athens Olympics and Odette Richard - 2008 Beijing Olympics.
I studied at Goudstad Teachers Training College - this is where I met Isabel van Achterberg. She was my Physical Education Lecturer for four years. After College I taught Biology and Physical Education at Blairgowrie High School for five years.
In 1985 I went to Burstadt, a small town in Germany, for a “Gymnastica" (Festival of Gymnastics). We went as a student group and Isabel was our Coach. This is where I saw all the gymnasts with ribbons, ropes, balls etc and I started enquiring about this lovely Sport.
At this point I was teaching at Blairgowrie High School and if I think of it now it is so funny. I made ribbons for the girls and unitards. They did displays in groups of about eight girls. It was still very basic but the girls already showed a lot of interest and had lots of fun.
In 1988 I went back to Burstadt with another group and that was when I decided to learn more about the Rhythmic Gymnastics. I took unpaid leave from teaching and went to Germany where I trained at a Rhythmic Gymnastics Club for five months. I was twenty-six years old and trained with young girls - the coach was a Bulgarian lady (Tony Miesen). I practiced so hard that I had blisters from the clubs , but I was determined to learn as many skills as I could to bring back home.
When I came back I resigned from teaching and started the first Rhythmic Gymnastics Club at Blairgowrie High School. In 1990 the hall burnt down and that was when I found Berario Recreation Centre - the venue where I’m still coaching today!
Isabel van Achterberg and the Inspectors of Physical Education Departments across South Africa, asked me to do courses for the Physical Education teachers. In one year I travelled across the country and did thirty-three courses at schools to promote Rhythmic Gymnastics. We started hosting competitions at Berario where the judges still sat on the four corners of the carpet and judged.
My introduction to High Performance competitions was at the 1995 Four Continents Championships in Cairo, Egypt. I was selected as the Team Coach and we were represented by one Senior Gymnast (Michelle Cameron) and two Junior Gymnasts (Andrea Schermoly and Cheryl Philips).
The 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur was my first big multi-discipline event where I was selected as the Coach. South Africa was represented by four Rhythmic Gymnasts (Michelle Cameron, Kim Baldry, Andrea Schermoly and Jo-Anne Nelson).
Let's start with the Commonwealth Games:
1998: Kuala Lampur - Coach
2002: No Rhythmic Gymnastics at the Commonwealth Games, however England hosted a "mock" event in Surrey which we attended
2006: Melbourne - Coach
2010: New Delhi - Judge
2014: Glasgow - Judge
2001: Akita, Japan - Coach to Belinda Potgieter
2005: Duisberg, Germany - Coach to Stephanie Sandler
2003: Budapest, Hungary - Coach
2005: Baku, Azerbaijan - Coach
2007: Patras, Greece - Coach
2009: Mie, Japan - Coach
2010: Moscow, Russia - Judge
2011: Montpellier, France - Judge
2013: Kiev, Ukraine - Judge
2015: Stuttgart, Germany - Judge
2004: Athens, Greece - Coach to Stephanie Sandler
2008: Beijing, China - Coach to Odette Richard
2010: First Youth Olympic Games, Singapore – Coach to Aimee van Rooyen. This was another highlight in my career being able to attend this event with my daughter.
For South Africa the African Championships is one of the most important Competitions that we compete in. Some of these Competitions have also been the most memorable. I have represented South Africa at every African Championships since 2000:
2000: Tunisia - Coach
2002: Algeria - Coach
2004: Senegal - Coach and Judge
2006: South Africa - Coach
2009: Egypt - Judge
2010: Namibia - Judge
2012: South Africa - Judge
2014: South Africa - Judge
I see a great future for Rhythmic Gymnastics in South Africa. We are currently working on the new Levels Programme which will be launched in November 2017. It is really going to be different and very exciting and within the reach of Rhythmic Gymnasts and Coaches.
It is also amazing how many “retired" Rhythmic Gymansts are furthering their careers in coaching. I find that this is the most important aspect for the growth of the Sport.
I believe that every girl should do Rhythmic Gymnastics as it helps them in so many spheres of their lives. It cultivates a healthy living pattern, emphasises the importance of training and keeping fit and most of all it cultivates a positive outlook of yourself and self image.
Never give up!!
I would rather want to thank the parents for their dedication to the Sport and assure them that they will never be sorry that their daughter participated in Rhythmic Gymnastics.
Don’t ever think you know everything, learn at every opportunity that is given to you.