“It was the most unthinkable thing any organisation could do to an athlete who had invested so much time…”
United States international gymnastics coach John Geddert blasted the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF), during an interview with I95.5 FM this evening, for destroying the Rio 2016 Olympic dreams of local gymnast, Thema Williams.
The live interview was conducted at the same time that the TTGF held its own press conference at the Chamber of Commerce in Westmoorings—the latter organisation scheduled its meeting a day after the radio station.
Williams was replaced by her alternate, Marisa Dick, on Friday night although TTGF president David Marquez only informed Geddert of the decision on Saturday morning. The gymnastics board never officially communicated its decision to Williams.
Geddert, whose report on Williams’ poor training performance on Friday and sore ankle was cited as the TTGF’s reason for replacing the athlete, told I.95.5 FM that he regrets the wording of his email.
“I regret sending them a report that was incomplete,” said Geddert, “and I regret sending them the ammunition to make the decision that I think they always wanted to make…
“Thema had a disappointing practice. Athletes have disappointing practises all the time…
“You are supposed to give them an honest report of what is going on.… Now, in hindsight, it obviously should not have been.”
Geddert justified his claim of TTGF bias against Williams by pointing out the board’s efforts to change the rules when his athlete initially qualified for the Rio Test event as well as its controversial decision to sanction her for a topless photo.
“They wanted to scratch her immediately (over the photograph) and then when one came out with Marisa the whole thing was dropped,” said Geddert. “I have dealt with countless associations over the years and I have never had to deal with so much drama as I’ve had in this two year period—ever.”
Geddert reiterated that Marquez did not make any meaningful effort to reach him, which was “unthinkable” for: “a decision of this magnitude with all that has been invested.”
Williams qualified for the Rio Test event by placing 59th at the Glasgow 2015 World Championships, which was 19 places higher than Dick.
However, Dick finished 55th of 61 participants in Rio to complete the job and secure a historic position at the Olympics for local gymnastics.
Geddert insisted that Williams would have breezed through the Test event on April 17. Asked specifically about Dick’s chances of medalling, the coach who led the United States to gold at the London 2012 Olympics said the Canada-born gymnast had “zero chance.”
“Thema on her worst day would have easily met the minimum score that ended up qualifying,” said Geddert, “and she was in no way primed to make her worst performance. We were pacing our stallion…
“(Dick) is a terrific young lady. She is not at fault. She didn’t make any decisions (although) she may have benefitted from some decisions.
“(But) the ability to run, jump, dance… Thema is a far superior athlete and she showed it at the World Championships.”
Geddert explained that he left Rio on Saturday night to attend to a family emergency—believed to be a funeral—because he felt Williams’ legal appeals were doomed to fail.
“Once we were within the 24 hour window, the game was over,” said Geddert. “There was no ability to appeal. We were will within that (24 hour period) when I got on a plane…
“She was there with her team manager (Nicole Fuentes) and she wanted to stay and she wasn’t coming home with me (to the United States). The game was over.”
Geddert described Williams as a wonderful role model for young athletes and was convinced that she would recover from her ill-fated attempt to get to the Olympics.
“She is a perfect role model for young athletes,” said the gymnastics coach. “She is smart, articulate, beautifully-spoken… I know Thema will land on her feet.
“She is a go-getter. As devastating as this may be, she is going to be fine.”