Thu | Aug 17, 2017

‘Trailblazer’ Williams hoping gymnastics takes off in Jamaica

Published:Monday | August 8, 2016 | 8:00 AM
Toni-Ann Williams hugs coach Justin Howell as they celebrate her performance on the floor routine during gymnastics competition at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, yesterday.

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil:

It was a day of firsts for Toni-Ann Williams.

She was the first to walk on to the Rio Olympic Arena floor.

She was the first to start competing.

Oh, and, of course, she became the first person to represent Jamaica in gymnastics at the Olympic Games when she hit the floor exercise mat shortly before 10 a.m. (8 a.m. Jamaica time) yesterday.

After amassing 50.966 points on her trip on the floor exercise - vault, uneven bars and balance beam - Williams had to endure a 12-hour wait to see if she had done enough to advance to the final.

Williams was technically sound throughout her floor routine, using the mat well and sticking all the landings on her three tumble passes - first after a 'double layout', which is a double flip in a straight body position; then on a 'twisting double back' (two flips with a full twist of the body); and, finally, after her 'double pike' - two flips in the pike position - to register a 13.200 score after ending her routine with a Usain Bolt-esque 'To Di Worl' pose.

She was also solid on the vault, showing a lot of energy in the power apparatus and landing with a decent body position for a 14.100 score.

Williams ran into some difficulties on the uneven bars, losing momentum after not pushing out enough on her left arm on the upper bar. She also had early trouble on the balance beam, but made up for it somewhat with a perfect double front dismount - a rare sight for gymnastics fans - with Williams being the only athlete to use the method currently. She scored 11.533 and 12.133, respectively, in both events.

The 20-year-old US-born gymnast was well aware that she had already accomplished. She is now hoping that her impressive showing here will inspire future Jamaican participation in the event and greater support for the programme back home.

"I am very excited. I know there were some mistakes here and there, but, overall I am very happy to have represented Jamaica. I hope the kids back in Jamaica can see that they can do whatever they want in gymnastics, and, hopefully, my performance today can be a trailblazer for the sport and keep the programme going in Jamaica," Williams told The Gleaner.

"I was really excited about the floor, as you saw I did Usain Bolt's pose, and everyone loved it, and I stuck all my passes on the floor. The vault, I had a lot of energy, and I also stuck my landing, so those two were my favourite and I'm really satisfied with them," she added.

Williams said she was targeting another two or three points and felt that she would have secured those had she not made those errors.

"Considering my mistakes, if I take those points, which I could recover from the mistakes, I'm pretty happy with my score. It matches up with some of the other athletes up there and I'm really excited to see the sport moving forward and what we can do for the programme in Jamaica," Williams said.

"I was hoping for a 53 or a high 52, considering if I take the points back from my mistakes, I would have been right there. But I'm happy with the results and whatever happens, happen (re: qualification to final)."