Sat | Aug 18, 2018

United States-based gymnast aims at Pan Am Games

Published:Monday | December 4, 2017 | 12:00 AMHubert Lawrence

Back from retirement at age 23, Danusia Francis has her eyes on the 2019 Pan-American Games. The English-born University of California, Los Angeles, legend has surprised herself training so far and could be back better than ever. Known to be an innovator, Francis is working on skills that seem certain to impress judges and fans alike.

She retired after closing her storied UCLA career as 2016 NCAA co-champion in the balance beam event. In the previous year, after competing from Britain, Francis distinguished herself at the World Championships and helped Jamaica advance its quest to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Now in England after completing her studies at UCLA, she is back from her short retirement. "Obviously, it was like the natural thing to do with graduation," Francis mused when questioned about her break from the sport, "but then I actually felt like I had more in me." The 23-year-old was inspired to come back by children who attend gymnastics workshops she conducts in England. "Just to be able to inspire the children kinda gave me back my passion, and I was kinda thinking 'Why did I retire?'," she remembered.

Now she is looking ahead. Born to a Jamaican father in England, Francis has found she still has her touch in training. "It's gone a lot better than I thought," she said, "because taking a year out in the sport of gymnastics is a long time." In a reference to the fine margins that make a difference in her sport, she specified, "Usually if you take two weeks out, it can really affect you, so I went back with an open mind, thinking it would take me a while to get my skills back."




Training is so good that Francis is planning to reintroduce a skill she has not performed in nine years. It is called a "squat disslo". Executed on the parallel bars, combining handstands and spin moves, it is a stunning skill that few attempt. "I'm really thinking about bringing that back, and I still have my dismount, which nobody else has ever done," she tabled.

She made history in 2014 when she became the first to do a sideways side aerial to a full layout off the side of the beam.

Francis expects to be in Jamaica next year. "My next goal would be the Pan-American Games, and we hope we're going to do a trial, all of us that compete for Jamaica but live in other countries in Jamaica in June," she advised.