Van Niekerk eyes national gymnastics crown
JANDRE Van Niekerk is not your average junior sportsperson.
His dedication to gymnastics is akin to a full-time job, though his love and passion for the sport makes the 28 hours Van Niekerk spends training a breeze.
Van Niekerk won the Open Level 7 category at the Gymnastics Queensland Senior State Championships at Brisbane's Sleeman Sports Complex.
If that wasn't impressive enough, consider the 13-year-old beat several gymnasts aged eight years his senior despite having spent less than four years involved in the sport.
"It was exhilarating, I was really nervous beforehand," he said.
"I was excited with what I came out of. I didn't want to fall, I want to do my best.
"I feel like I did my best."
While he was suitably stoked with his performance, there was only one minor blemish in an otherwise fantastic weekend.
"I did well in every single one except the pommel, I fell in one of the skills I did," Van Niekerk said.
"It was my second last one.
"I wasn't happy with myself but had to keep my composure and focus on my next apparatus."
While talking with the young gymnast, you quickly start to learn Van Niekerk is not your regular teenager.
He is an incredibly gifted athlete powered purely by his determination to succeed.
Despite having only just returned from the state championships, at which he earned the right to represent Queensland at the national titles next month, Van Niekerk is straight back on the bars to polish his skillset, and work towards achieving Level 8 status.
The Chronicle last caught up with Van Niekerk in October 2015, when he was a 12-year-old Level 5 state championships winner.
"It's been very hectic, the work has been much more gruelling," he said of his training since.
"I have to do a lot more strength, a lot more apparatus, and a lot more focusing."
Van Niekerk's focus is on learning and executing new skills across all apparatuses, though the Hervey Bay gymnast counts the high bar as his favourite.
"The high bar is the easiest so I can do anything I want to do," Van Niekerk said.
"I can catch any skill I want to.
"On one of my dismounts I do a double backflip with a full twist.
"I started them midway through last year and at the beginning of this year I got it."
Van Niekerk possesses a goal to perform at the world's biggest gymnastics events, and with that comes the dream of one day competing at the Olympic Games.
Given the meteoric speed at which Van Niekerk has mastered his skills you wouldn't be game to bet against the lad to feature on the world stage, but the teenager knows he has to work hard to achieve the dream.