The Cape Flats’ Laylah Waggie is New Zealand’s Top Junior Rhythmic Gymnast: Stories of the Diaspora




Laylah Waggie has an interesting story to tell. Her mother is from Mitchell’s Plain, her father from Athlone , she is a member of the Kaapse Klopse and she is being considered for a spot on New Zealand’s Olympic team. The 15 year old is, after all, New Zealand’s top young Rhythmic Gymnast.

Born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, Laylah first began with Gymnastics as a 5 year old at primary school. She went on to win New Zealand’s Junior Rhythmic Gymnastics title for three years in a row and she has competed in competitions all around the world including Europe, Australia and the USA.

In 2017, the 13 year old Laylah’s gymnastics career nearly came to an end when she suffered a serious lower back injury. The injury forced her to drop out of the sport for a full year, and miss out on major events such as the Commonwealth-Games. At the time, it was still not certain whether she’d be able to compete again but Laylah has a fierce determination to not give in.

In order to prove that she was able to compete, she had to undergo 8 months of specialist-physiotherapy and training of 6 hours a day. She also had to participate in several months of trials before a panel of national and international judges, to convince them that she was fit and ready to go. The young gymnast not only convinced the judges, but she also scored the required amount of points that made her eligible to compete internationally.

Since recovering from her injury, she has won the Counties Manakua Championship and secured a silver medal in the international category at the 2019 College Sport Auckland Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships. Her most recent accolade is winning Gold at the Auckland Rhythmic Gymnastics Championship.

In July, she also made history by being one of two gymnasts that represented New Zealand at the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships’ very first Junior Division competition. The competition was held in Russia and as a result of Laylah’s performance, she is now ranked in the top 60 of 300 elite gymnasts in the world.

Laylah will also be representing New Zealand in the Junior Category at the Aeon Cup in October which is an international Rhythmic Gymnastics competition that is held every year in Japan. More importantly, she recently got invited to take part in the trials where the New Zealand Olympic squad will be selected. This is the first time a 15 year old New Zealand Gymnast was asked to do so.

Her grandfather, Ruthewaan Waggie, says that Laylah’s upbringing is symbolic of what can be achieved if people work together, regardless of race, religion, culture or nationality. Having been active in helping to raise her, he was adamant that she understands and respects where she comes from. Although she was raised in her mom, Faranaaz’s Muslim religion, she is completely aware, proud and respectful of her dad, Sergio’s Christian religion.  She was also raised to be proud of her South African lineage and her whole family, Muslim and Christian, are actively involved in her upbringing. These include her grandparents; Ruthwaan, Nadia Waggie, Carl Goliath and Carol Goliath; as well as her aunts and uncles; Nazley, Nuraan, Tariek, Lisha, Renecia and Megan. Added to that mix is her stepdad, Akshay, who is a Hindu from Fiji. Ruthewaan says that Akshay has become an important part of Laylah’s life, and as such, is adamant that she should also be aware of his religious and cultural beliefs.

Now, when we say that she is a member of the Kaapse Klopse, we are not exactly talking about the Klopse in the ‘Kaap’. Her grandfather, Ruthewaan, emigrated to New Zealand in 2002, to take up a school principal position, taking the whole family with him. He had been a lifelong member of the Klopse and he was not about to stop. When he got there, he met up with some friends and they started their own New Zealand version of the Kaapse Klopse. Called, ‘The Dukes’, they were invited to participate in events and Laylah was one of the Klopse girls. Ruthewaan half-jokingly says that this where Laylah got her ‘rhythm’ from.

Laylah Waggie has interesting to tell, a story that does not follow a straight line. It does not lead from Muslim to Muslim or Christian to Christian. Neither does it go from South Africa to Cape Town or New Zealand to Auckland. Her story says that it is okay to be different and it is okay to love and respect those that are different from you.  The End.

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