Madibaz swimming stars show artistry in virtual championships
In a year that has thrown up a special set of challenges, transforming the impossible into the possible has been Madibaz artistic swimming star Courtney Musson's mantra. The 25-year-old, who graduated cum laude with a master's in Human Movement Science this year, was selected for the national squad after placing second in the recent Sportex Artistic Swimming Championships, held in a virtual environment. In a year turned upside down by Covid-19, Musson said she realised that life could change in a flash. "The best lesson I have learnt is that you have to be willing to adapt to the world and the challenges it throws at you by being more creative. Nothing is impossible – we just have to make it possible." The unprecedented circumstances forced her to readjust her plans. "I actually started the year with the focus of completing my master's studies and I took the decision not to commit to international competitions early in the year in order to graduate in April. "As Covid hit, there was uncertainty as to how sport would resume. I reviewed my outlook for the year to focus more on my weak points such as upper body strength. "Unfortunately, last year I had an injury during a training camp and I had to work hard to get back to where I had been in terms of core strength and flexibility." Although the absence of the normal facilities made training more complex, she said it provided the opportunity to interact with others in the same situation. "I participated in a number of Zoom sessions with clubs from around the world, including England, Malta, Turkey and the USA," said Musson. "It was such a privilege to learn from other synchro athletes and coaches who were experiencing the same lockdown restrictions. It was like we formed our own little virtual club and it gave the athletes from all the clubs something to look forward to each week." She said competitors went through a range of movements in the headstand position in the championships. "An example saw us starting in a headstand. From here we lifted our legs to a 90-degree angle and held this position, before extending our legs straight up to the ceiling and again holding this position. "We were judged on how accurate our positions were, overall strength, stability and our movement timing. "In addition, we performed basic strength exercises such as a plank hold for a certain time and a specific number of push-ups. In these exercises the judges looked at technique and our overall upper body and core strength." She finished runner-up to Cape Town-based national teammate Emma Manners-Wood. "We are currently one (Manners-Wood) and two respectively in the national open division. We were pretty close to each other in our final scores and since this was my first virtual competition, I was very pleased." Another Madibaz student-athlete, Nina Smith, was included in the squad. The first-year dietetics student described the competition as "an amazing experience". "It made the judges and the swimmers think outside of the box as we usually only compete in the water. It was a good challenge," said the 20-year-old who, like Musson, has been selected for national squads in the past. "I feel very proud at making the squad and am excited to compete for my country once again internationally."