Bontas figure skater wins gold at SA battle of blades

Tamika Van As, 8, from Bonteheuwel.
Tamika Van As, 8, from Bonteheuwel.

Promising figure skater Tamika Van As, 8, from Bonteheuwel, is the talk of the town after arriving home from last week’s national championships, in Gauteng with gold medal in hand.

Spending time at the ice rink is popular among youngsters across the city, but not every one walks away clutching gold once they’ve packed away their skating boots.

Tamika, her coaches, family and friends are still beaming with delight, following her winning performance.

And, it’s no small feat, as those in the know will tell you it’s a highly technical sport that combines grace, elegance and the ability to balance oneself on two razor-sharp blades while executing intricate movements.

Trying to impress the judges while keeping your cool is never easy, especially for an 8-year-old.

However, the presence of her mother Tarren, who accompanied her to the competition, her coaches and fellow teammates, helped to calm her nerves.

Tamika, a Grade 3 pupil at Athlone North Primary School, is among a number of gold medallists who represented the province in various divisions at the national championships.

In line with Covid protocols, no spectators were allowed inside the arena. Ms Van As had to settle on watching her daughter go through her paces from outside the competition area. Thankfully a crystal clear glass window offered her a bird’s eye view to follow her daughter’s winning performance every step of the way.

As it turned out, the youngster did enough to earn the judges nod as the top performer in her division, winning gold in the juvenile competitive section.

“When they announced that I was the winner I was so excited, “ she said.

“Once my mom and I were done celebrating and they gave me my medal, I immediately called my daddy. He was even more excited, jumping up and down, he couldn’t sleep all night.

Equally proud of her daughter’s achievements, Ms Van As was quick to thank her coaches and team management for all their support and encouragement leading up to Tamika’s first major competition.

She said her daughter fell in love with the sport five years ago while at GrandWest where her husband, Graham, a member of Bonteheuwel’s Boundary Table Tennis Club, was busy coaching the SA team during the world junior table tennis championships.

“She spotted the mini rink they have there and when she saw it, she just wanted to go on that mini rink,” said Van As.

After two or three weeks of playing around on the mini rink, they noticed members of the Black Panthers Figure Skating Club and asked if they could join.

Like all beginners, young Tamika had to master the basics first to earn club badges before being allowed to proceed to higher grades.

Since joining the club in 2017, Tamika impressed in various club competitions, winning her first gold medal for the club in 2018. Things came to a complete standstill in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemedic struck, followed by the extended lockdown period.

The lengthy lay-off is what makes her achievement more remarkable, says coach Vage Evetts.

“I could also not do Zoom lessons with her because the family don’t have wi-fi. When she returned, she worked hard to make her nationals a possibility. WP brought home many gold medals, in various categories,” Evetts said.