Mon | Sep 23, 2019

I was done with gymnastics! - Williams shares journey after completing comeback with first Pan Am Games appearance

Published:Wednesday | July 31, 2019 | 12:09 AMDaniel Wheeler/Gleaner Writer
Jamaican gymnast Toni-Ann Williams competing in the floor exercise at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Jamaican gymnast Toni-Ann Williams competing in the floor exercise at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Toni-Ann Williams was finished with gymnastics. Her Achilles tendon was ruptured in February, while competing in her final season with the University of California Berkeley, bringing a cruel end to her collegiate career. She called her family and said she was done.

“I was definitely going to retire. I called my family and told them that I was finished. I was going to retire because I felt like I couldn’t take anymore heartbreak from gymnastics and injuries,” she reflected.

Fast-forward six months later, she has not only recovered from successful surgery in record time, but managed to get fit enough to compete in her first-ever Pan Americans Games on Saturday. Although she did not qualify for the finals of the balance beam and uneven bar events, she was just glad to be competing again.

“It was really exciting to be back on the competition floor! My first Pan American (Games) was amazing and it was awesome to see great competitors. It was also great motivation for me,” said Williams, who became the first and only Jamaican gymnast to compete at an Olympics, when she did so at the 2016 Rio Games.

Williams has been through her fair share of injuries. She dislocated her elbow five months prior to her recent surgery and had her other Achilles torn two years ago. The experience then gave her an idea of how difficult the recovery would be.

“I had previously torn my other Achilles two years ago so I knew how hard the recovery was. [It took] me a full year to recover, but with this Achilles, I felt stronger and rehab was progressing faster,” she said.

The last six months have been a battle to get back into competitive gymnastics, and the support that Williams has received from those close to her has made all the difference.

SUPPORT SYSTEM

“The people around me helped me to get through this experience. My parents, siblings, my coach, my best friends and teammates from college have all helped me to find the strength to keep going. Here at the Pan American Games, my Jamaican team has been very supportive and encouraging during my comeback,” she expressed.

Williams is looking to build on her Pan American Games experience by adding new skills to her routines and easing back into the floor exercise and vault events. But she has already learned more than she could have ever imagined, about herself and her love for the sport.

“I learnt that truly believing in yourself and discovering your inner strength and passion can really take you a long way. Understanding why you do what, sticking to your values and being kind to yourself is something that I have rediscovered when I started this journey,” she said.