The 16-year-old Churchlands Senior High School student was forced to take a year off after having stress fractures in his back, with his orthopaedic specialist telling him he would never be able to return to the sport.
Time away from gymnastics was hard for Gabriel, who said for a long time he lost his sense of organisation and general focus.
‘My school marks suffered as well as my fitness,’ he said.
‘I had so much more time but just didn’t know how to fill it, so I wasted it.
‘I’ve been doing gymnastics for over 10 years and it just seemed like circumstance had killed a part of me. I was living a half-life for those 12 months and I lost a sense of purpose and achievement.’
Gabriel said getting back to training at Challenge Stadium with his Northern Districts Gymnastics Club (Balcatta) was tough, with his physical shape ‘appalling’ for a gymnast.
‘After six months into the year, training six days a week as well as morning swims before training, I surpassed even my coach’s expectations in that timeline,’ he said.
‘Once again I found my rhythm and purpose ” I had goals to work towards.
‘I could breath, achieve and my enthusiasm came back ” I had discovered the part of me that had been missing.’