Tue | Feb 19, 2019

Williams needs help to lift Gymnastics in Jamaica

Published:Saturday | February 2, 2019 | 12:18 AM
Toni-Ann Williams walks past the Olympic rings during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Gymnast Toni-Ann Williams completes a somersault, while competing in the floor exercise at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
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Toni- Ann Williams took Jamaica into new frontier, in the field of sport when she became the first person to represent the country in gymnastics at an Olympic Games three years ago.

The feat not only put the 23 year-old in the history books, but has placed firmly on her shoulders, the responsibilities of augmenting a sport that means very little to the wider Jamaican society.

But the mammoth task does not scare Williams.

“I realised that in order to raise the profile of sport, I would have to compete for a medal at a major games, and I am up for that. I didn’t come this far not to see gymnastics become a top sport in Jamaica,” Williams toldThe Gleaner.

And while she is bearing the pain of injuries, setbacks, and disappointments in her efforts to realise this dream, Williams is also calling on corporate Jamaica to play its part in the development of the sport locally.

“I want to medal at a major competition, and I do believe that would raise the profile of the sport in Jamaica but also the financial support is major because we need facilities in order to develop talent,” she said.

“Right now, everything is coming out of our pockets or from our parents or families, but if we have the facilities, it would be much easier to recruit more people as well. Because there are a lot of talented Jamaicans out there who could excel in gymnastics, but simply do not have the financial means to take on the sport.”

But even as she points out the areas that need improvement, Williams also recognises that a lot has been done since she graced the wood at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016.

“We have more people joining our senior team. We have five males and five females now.

We have the Jamaica Classics where we are getting qualifiers for the junior team as well as continuing to introduce more people to the sport,” she said.

Setback

Williams suffered a major setback in the summer of last year, when she dislocated her left elbow while preparing for the Pan American Games qualifiers. The injury seem to have derailed her plans to compete at the Pan American Games scheduled for July 26 to August 11 in Lima, Peru. However, there is a possibility that she could still take part in the Games.

“Potentially, I can compete at the Pan American Games even though I missed the qualifiers. We have two spots, and there is still a possibility of me filling one of those spots,” Williams explained.

The University of California, Berkley, senior, says that she will move right into preparation for the Pan American Games and World Championships after the collegiate season comes to an end.

“I am currently in my collegiate season right now. We have a 13 -to-14 week season, and then after that, I guess it is preparation for the possibility of competing at the Pan American Games,” she said.