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Bridging the gap: SA champ appointed to global body

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Helen Kruger, an expert South African bridge player and teacher, was appointed to the World Bridge Federation (WBF) executive council earlier this month. This is the first time a South African has been appointed to this position.

The appointment, valid until 2022, was made on 3 November, following a vote by delegates of the WBF’s 182 member countries around the globe.

It took Kruger by surprise. “I was encouraged to put in my CV,” she said, “and I did it grudgingly, not expecting to be nominated. I’m surprised and excited. It’s an honour.”

Currently based in Lausanne, Switzerland, the WBF is bridge’s international governing body, responsible for the laws governing bridge and for world championship competitions.

Kruger was voted to the position by delegates after three new positions became available on the council. She will find out her portfolio at the council’s first three-day exco meeting on Zoom.

Kruger started playing bridge more than 50 years ago, and has been playing seriously – at times for South Africa – for 20 years. She’s also in great demand as a teacher.

She was involved in the creation of the Links Bridge Club, which describes itself as “the home of bridge in Gauteng”, based in Linksfield, Johannesburg. This club had more than 70 tables going before the COVID-19 pandemic.

She plays and teaches bridge for up to eight hours a day, and has had the same bridge partner, Kit Gilmour, for 24 years – partnership being an asset in bridge. “It’s a long time not to fight,” she comments wryly.

Kruger says bridge is a wonderful game that has taken her all over the world and changed her life. Bridge has also been a life saver for many who have been isolated and stressed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and have continued to play online.

Kruger believes people should start playing bridge younger in South Africa, where it’s still regarded as a game for older people. “They teach bridge at school in Israel,” she says, and as a result, a lot of young people play the game. “The earlier you start the better – your brain just works better when you’re younger. It’s that simple.”

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