During our recent visit to Cape Town, for the second edition of the World Gym For Life Challenge, we came across Brandon Beack, a young South African gymnast, who is a member of Cape Town’s ACS Gymnastics Club. Brandon, 17, would not have missed the event for the world. We met him, seated at the bottom of the main stand, in his wheelchair.
A year ago, Brandon was involved in a training accident when he fell from the parallel bars. Today, he is still battling to recover. His hopes of doing so depend on access to the right treatment and technical support. These, not surprisingly, are well beyond the financial means of his parents, so Brandon is trying desperately to raise the money to pay for his rehab. And this is where the FIG Foundation comes into play. We will be providing Brandon with much needed support, and are currently finalizing the specifics of how best to help him.
As is the case with every accident, Brandon’s story brings into sharp focus the safeguards and directives that I have, throughout my tenure, endeavored to introduce, implement and enforce in order to ensure that suitable precautions, planning, specialized training and risk management are in place.
Gymnastics is not inherently dangerous; in fact, when practiced sensibly, and in the proper conditions, it has positive health benefits for all. Sometimes, though, best practice and common sense are ignored, and in such cases the likelihood of accidents increases.
This is where everyone involved must play their part. In the first instance, it is down to the FIG to draft and enforce rules for usage of equipment by the federations, clubs and event organizers, while providing proper training for the trainers, and informing and raising awareness among the gymnasts in order to cultivate a culture where safety-consciousness prevails. This was precisely why, 10 years ago, I established the Gymnastics Academies!
In order to safeguard the well-being of our gymnasts, it is essential that the federations, clubs and event organizers ensure that their technical staff are properly trained, and that their training remains up to date, and equally that their equipment and machinery meets the required standards. By establishing the licensing system, which was approved, coincidentally enough, by the 2008 FIG Council in Cape Town, my intention was to make accident insurance mandatory, as I was conscious of the fact that there is no such thing as zero risk – even in gymnastics – and I was equally conscious of the financial consequences for the gymnasts themselves.
While insurance is today mandatory at the elite level, all too often it is not applied at the grassroots level, which is, of course, where the majority of gymnasts competing nationally and locally are to be found. Brandon Beack’s story offers a stark illustration of what can happen to a gymnast after suffering injury or handicap.
In short, we need to take heed of the message concealed in the popular adage: prevention is better than cure.
In conclusion, I would be pleased if, in response to such moments of despair, we see a greater degree of humanity on the part of our national federations. Solidarity, after all, never hurt anyone.
With best wishes,
FEDERATION INTERNATIONALE DE GYMNASTIQUE
Prof. Bruno GRANDI, FIG President