Meet the man who learnt to fly
Forget skydiving and bungee jumps. For the ultimate adrenaline rush, Offering Tlaka just needs an eight-metre bounce off a trampoline. Until a sports coach introduced him to trampolining at the age of 12, Tlaka had no intention of pursuing it. “I never thought gymnastics was a sport for a black boy,” he says. The unfamiliarity and intrigue motivated him to attempt the twists and somersaults. Since then, Tlaka has never looked back, focusing instead on moving up. “This is more than just jumping around on a trampoline,” he says. “It has been my ticket to empowerment and freedom.”
Today, Tlaka sees the sport as a part of who he is. “It’s in my blood,” he says. “It’s a labour of love.” But to experience the sheer thrill of soaring through the air isn’t enough. As one of South Africa’s top youth gymnasts, Tlaka is constantly striving to perfect his art. With precision and grace, he competed at the 2014 World Trampoline and Tumbling Championships in the United States of America, and again at the 2017 Championships in Bulgaria. Tlaka is now bringing those skills back home to others like him.
“Very few black kids have a chance to become involved with the sport because they are not exposed to it, and it’s also financially demanding,” Tlaka says. To counter that, he opened up the Klim-Gim Trampoline Club in Pretoria. “I believe in passing on the skills that I’ve learned through my years of experience,” Tlaka says. With the right mentorship, the children he trains are able to realise their potential as gymnasts, as well as learn how to bounce back from personal struggles. Through trampolining, Tlaka offers them a new approach to life. “It’s not about how hard you fall,” he says. “It’s about getting back up every single time.”
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