Six years after falling and breaking her back during training, Kaitlin Rawson has not only made a remarkable recovery but is now ranked world number one in pole and aerial sports.
Rawson and her mother, Debbie, took part in pole and aerial sports to bond. The two went to a studio in Johannesburg that offered aerial yoga, and that is where they discovered the sports.
But two years after getting into the physically intensive sport, Rawson had a freak accident during practise. She fell off the poles, injuring her spine.
“It was September 2016, and I lost my grip and fell. I landed on my neck and burst my vertebrae. I had fallen before, but the way I landed this time was different.”
She was in the intensive care unit for a week and had to undergo intensive rehabilitation to relearn how to walk for three months.
Five months after her injury the 25-year-old was back in training on her beloved poles.
“When I left the rehabilitation centre, I was not 100%, but I was keen to go back to training. When I was in hospital and realised I would be fine, I started thinking about going back to training.”
She started beginner classes as soon as her body was up to it.
Last year, in a virtual competition, she won first place in the World Pole and Aerial Sports Championships.
Rawson says because her right side has not fully recovered from the injury, she competes in the ParaPole PPM1 decreased muscle power division of the competition. In last year’s competition, Rawson had to record a video of her routine and enter it into the competition. She is currently ranked number one in her category worldwide.
This year the World Pole and Aerial Sports Championships takes place in October in Lausanne, Switzerland. The mother and daughter duo and 10 other South Africans have qualified for the competition. Debbie will compete in the over-40s category.
“It is so great to compete with my mother. Hopefully, from us, there will be more awareness of the sport. The sport is still growing, and hopefully, more and more people will join.”
While she hopes the sport grows, Rawson also has big plans for herself at this year’s competition.
“My goal is to get a gold medal again and break the world record.”
The current record for her category is 35 points, held by Mexican athlete Isabel Aguilar. Last year, she scored 37.1, but the online records did not count.
“I hope to break the record this year. That is what will make me happy,” she said.