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TTGF promises “fantastic event”; warns of possible repercussions for rebel clubs

The Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) vowed to put on a fantastic National Championship tomorrow despite receiving no funding from the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT). The TTGF is also facing a boycott from seven clubs and over 60 percent of the local gymnasts, including all of its top level athletes.

Photo: Sport Minister Darryl Smith (centre) meets with TTGF president David Marquez and his executive committee in 2015. (Courtesy Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs)
Photo: Sport Minister Darryl Smith (centre) meets with TTGF president David Marquez and his executive committee in 2015.
(Courtesy Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs)

The National Championship starts at 9am tomorrow at the Woodbrook Youth Facility. However, the TTGF will have just 72 local participants while another 27 gymnasts will fly in from Curaçao.

By contrast, the breakaway Friends of Gymnastics competition announced over 200 gymnasts for its meet at the same Woodbrook venue on 19 and 20 June.

The TTGF’s failure to attract a significant number of its own members was one of the reasons given by SPORTT CEO Adrian Raymond for the rejection of its application for TT$118,000 funding.

Raymond and SPORTT executive manager Anthony Creed also pointed to the TTGF’s supposed failure to present audited accounts for 2012, 2013 and 2014 and their late application for funding, which came two weeks before the tournament rather than the mandatory six weeks.

However, TTGF general secretary Elicia Peters-Charles said the local gymnastics body will stage the tournament anyway.

Photo: TTGF second vice-president Ricardo Lue Shue (back left) poses with young gymnasts in Trinidad and Tobago. (Copyright TT Sportslink)
Photo: TTGF second vice-president Ricardo Lue Shue (back left) poses with young gymnasts in Trinidad and Tobago.
(Copyright TT Sportslink)

“It will come off and it will be fantastic,” Peters-Charles told Wired868:

The funding [for it] came from all the board members. We all contributed and we got some sponsorship money at the last minute.

We couldn’t turn back the 27 athletes and 13 parents from Curaçao who spent about TT$3,000 [each] to come here. So we had to do the responsible thing and continue.

Peters-Charles was less charitable to the Friends of Gymnastics group, whose own competition will have the participation of almost twice as many clubs and almost three times as many local gymnasts.

The latter meet, predictably, was not sanctioned by the TTGF and the gymnastics body went as far as to warn international judges against attending. Peter-Charles called it “lawless.”

“For any group to have a meet, you must be sanctioned by the governing body,” said Peters-Charles, “and FIG and PAGU will not recognise any meet that is not recognised by the national federation. And we are certainly not going to be supporting such lawless behaviour.

Photo: Tots and Tumblers founder Annette Telfer. (Courtesy Annette Telfer)
Photo: Tots and Tumblers founder Annette Telfer.
(Courtesy Annette Telfer)

“I know that there were some Costa Rican officials who were coming but they did not know the bacchanal that was involved. And, when they found out, they pulled out.

“So I do not know what kind of watered-down competition they will be having. To have a proper, reputable competition, you must have foreign judges.”

Incidentally, the TTGF Championship will comprise of athletes who are rated up to Level Six whereas the competitors at Friends of Gymnastics competition go all the way up to Level Eight, with gymnasts like Gabrielle Doopan, Rhenece Andrew (both Tots and Tumblers) and Rae-Ann Bristol (Olympia).

“It is not watered down, it is just not sanctioned,” said Tonya Ayow, who is an organiser and committee member for the Friends of Gymnastics. “Clubs have unsanctioned meets all the time, which is just a way of checking to see where your children have reached and to compare your kids to those from other clubs…

“And we do have certified, international judges who are coming in for our competition.”

Photo: Young Tots and Tumblers gymnasts show off their winnings.
Photo: Young Tots and Tumblers gymnasts show off their winnings.

Peters-Charles hinted that the Friends of Gymnastics might face bigger problems than sourcing international judges. She suggested that athletes who snub the National Championship could potentially be ignored when the TTGF selects gymnasts to represent Trinidad and Tobago, even though—by her own admission—the country’s highest ranked gymnasts will be at the rebel competition.

“There are [rules] and policies in every federation,” said the TTGF general secretary, “And, in every federation, Nationals are what you use to decide who will go on to represent their country. If you don’t come to Nationals, how can you expect to represent your country?”

The TTGF has the political power but the clubs that comprise the Friends of Gymnastics have developed and retained the country’s top gymnasts. Potentially, the rift between the two parties can have a disastrous effect on the sport, if it has not done so already.

Twenty year old Trinidad and Tobago and Tots and Tumblers gymnast Thema Williams served pre-action protocol letters last month to TTGF president David Marquez, first vice-president Akil Wattley, second vice-president Ricardo Lue Shue and assistant treasurer Donna Lue Shue, over their role in her controversial deselection from the Rio 2016 Olympic Test Event, which paved the way for her Canada-born and nurtured rival, Marisa Dick, to grab the country’s sole berth at the upcoming Olympics.

Photo: Thema Williams of Trinidad And Tobago competes on the uneven bars during the 2015 World Gymnastics Championship in Glasgow, Scotland, on 23 October 2015. (Copyright AFP 2016/Andy Buchanan)
Photo: Thema Williams of Trinidad And Tobago competes on the uneven bars during the 2015 World Gymnastics Championship in Glasgow, Scotland, on 23 October 2015.
(Copyright AFP 2016/Andy Buchanan)

Although much has been made of the TTGF’s supposed bias towards Dick, there were also less reported allegations that the board’s motivation might have been to deny a rival faction the prestige of creating an Olympic athlete.

Ayow explained that gymnastics in-fighting pre-dates Williams.

“I don’t like the word ‘boycott’, I would say that the first non-participation was in 2014,” said Ayow, who criticised the TTGF for a lack of developmental programmes for the sport:

Last year, we had the mediation with Elton Prescott SC, so we tried to meet the Federation halfway. And both Olympia and Tots and Tumblers participated [in the National Championships] last year.

This year, with everything that is going on, the Federation has done nothing to improve its governance or to prove that they are not in breach of the constitution. So the clubs have decided that they are not participating…

If the TTGF decides to take action against athletes because of this, then we will see who is really concerned about the athletes.

Will the TTGF reach out to its aggrieved clubs for the benefit of the sport?

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams (right) and her coach John Geddert.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams (right) and her coach John Geddert.

Peters-Charles said it was possible and claimed the TTGF did just that last year by allowing athletes who snubbed the 2014 National Championship to represent Trinidad and Tobago.

The gymnastics official attempted to claim the moral high ground on the issue for the local sporting body:

We made concessions last year and extended an olive branch [to athletes from boycotting clubs]. I cannot say that [president David Marquez] will or will not do that again but it can still be on the table.

I am just one person, so I cannot make a unilateral statement and say yes or no on [ending the rift with the rebel clubs]. But we didn’t do anything. They boycotted us and they just sent resignations [from our committees] and went their way.

We are about peace.

It was, arguably, a selective view of the TTGF’s behaviour over the last nine months. And Williams, as well as her attorneys Keith Scotland, Dr Emir Crowne and Martin Daly SC, would disagree.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams (centre) is flanked by (from left) Tots and Tumblers gymnastics club owner Annette Telfer and attorneys Keith Scotland, Dr Emir Crowne and Resa Ramjohn at a press conference on 27 April 2016 at the Virtus Chambers in Port of Spain. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams (centre) is flanked by (from left) Tots and Tumblers gymnastics club owner Annette Telfer and attorneys Keith Scotland, Dr Emir Crowne and Resa Ramjohn at a press conference on 27 April 2016 at the Virtus Chambers in Port of Spain.
(Courtesy Wired868)

Peters-Charles softened her tone towards the Sports Company too, as she conceded that Creed almost certainly did not intentionally and maliciously copy John Geddert, Williams’ American coach, in yesterday’s email, which revealed that the TTGF would not get State funding for the National Championships.

“Mr Creed said it was an error and errors take place,” said the TTGF general secretary. “I cannot believe that Mr Creed will deliberately do that. I did write him about it and he did apologise.

“We want to move forward in a collaborative way with all our stakeholders.”

However, Peters-Charles said the TTGF’s failure to attend a SPORTT procurement workshop last month—and it was the only National Governing Body (NGB) which failed to show—should also be seen as an honest mistake.

“It wasn’t deliberate, it was just unfortunate,” said Peters-Charles. “I was in Canada and the president had a court matter with work [at COPoS] and one of the Lue Shues was out of the country.

“There was miscommunication in terms of who was going to the meeting and somebody said ‘yes’ and forgot to go… Remember we are all volunteers.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation officials (from right) Ricardo Lue Shue, Elicia Peters-Charles and David Marquez pose with Sport Minister Darryl Smith (second from right). (Courtesy Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation officials (from right) Ricardo Lue Shue, Elicia Peters-Charles and David Marquez pose with Sport Minister Darryl Smith (second from right).
(Courtesy Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs)

Peters-Charles noted too that it was at the SPORTT meeting, two weeks ago, when NGBs were advised to submit financial requests with six weeks notice.

“The meeting was two weeks ago to tell us to submit applications six weeks before your event,” said Peters-Charles. “Even if we had gone to the meeting, we still would not have had the six weeks. And remember it is since January that we submitted our projections for the year; and the only meet they fund for us for the year is the Nationals.

“So it is not to say they didn’t know the Nationals was coming.”

The local gymnastics body met widespread condemnation for its treatment of Williams, earlier this year. But, as the TTGF’s executive members dipped into their own pockets to fund the National Championships, they urged the public to remember what is really important: the children.

“It is sad that we didn’t get the funding because, at the end of the day, it is about the children,” said Peters-Charles. “When the Ministry of Sport said they are not going to fund 72 little boys and girls, it doesn’t affect you and me. It affects the children.

“Gymnastics is bigger than Thema Williams. So why punish the children who have nothing to do with that?

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnasts Marisa Dick (right) wave to the crowd during the Opening Ceremony of the Toronto 2015 Pan-American Games at Rogers Stadium, Toronto on July 2015. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Marisa Dick (right) waves to the crowd during the Opening Ceremony of the Toronto 2015 Pan-American Games at Rogers Stadium, Toronto on July 2015.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

“Dr [Keith] Rowley said he is about the children and sport; and then they turn around, 42 hours before a sporting event, and say they will blank them? That is not good. The children will have felt it if we didn’t put our own money.”

The TTGF general secretary insisted that she has thick skin and will continue to do her best for the sport despite the critisicm.

“Jesus Christ walked the earth and did only good and yet people said: Nail Him to the cross and give us Barabbas,” said Peters-Charles. “So who am I to say that I expect not to be nailed to the cross?”

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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132 comments

  1. #TTGFchangeboard or #TTGFnotinterested or #TTGFboardresign or #TTGFisupportThemanotDick … cannot support unfair ruling board… change board and will get support

  2. hear they really feel trinis have 9 days memory..look allyuh use all the unaudited/unaccounted money…

  3. Minister of Sports can’t ever run a 10 Meter race. You big fat streak misery.

  4. Why don’t the TTGF get their star athlete Dick to compete.

  5. I’m glad that my tax dollars courtesy SPORTT did not go to this incompetent bunch. Comparing herself to Jesus??? What arrogance. Peace?? all about the children?? Oh please. For the betterment of the sport this group needs to resign since they have lost all credibility. All support to the Friends of Gymnastics!! By the way how come Marisa is not part of their competition?? Hmmm.

  6. Actually Abeo, to be fair, she didn’t compare herself to Jesus as much as she used his perfection to contrast her imperfections and expectations to be therefore treated badly/worse than he was.
    Provided that a more moral mortal comparison would have still rubbed people the wrong way.
    Anyway, so the question is; if the government of the nation is not financially supporting a national event, can we truly consider it “Nationals”?
    And why would you go out your way to notify international judges that the event is not a sanctioned (is that the word) event if your concern is for the children and the gymnasts knowing (cuz you are the professed volunteer professional here) that such competitions happen all the time?

  7. Abeoooooooooooo, you int easy ??

  8. The high and mighty TTGF only knows about morality and procedures when it suits their own interest. How are the people of Trinidad and Tobago to trust the TTGF, when they use the term its all about the children, as a sheild, in their defence.

  9. Thank you for being a warrior in the midst of this storm of corruption. This Elicia person obviously has a god complex…as a matter of fact TTGF seems to be run by seasoned narcissists and psychopaths.

  10. Abeo Jackson, thank you darling. You keep me in the loop …. But how this fool think she immortal though? Bout comparing sheself to Jesus? What even? Just now we might hear psychiatric evaluation needed for she too…

  11. All that was just one cheek, turn the other cheek now! Jesus must be giggling at you, oh by the way Elicia – do not take the Lord’s name in vain. #Jesuswasnotlawless #Goddohlikeugly

  12. Why don’t they just bring Marisa Sick for their Championship????

  13. If you care about the children, give it up all have lost confidence in your so call TTGF. Hand it over to keep it alive. If you so care waiting to see…not holding my breath.

  14. NERVE of these people to be even presenting themselves much more allotting blame. Put on what show they like AS long as the children parents are there the most important of all.

  15. It is time all these associations and bodies provide accounts before they get additional funding.

  16. I have come to the conclusion that three of four persons in the captioned picture really are shameless, after what they engineered in the gymnastic world, they should have resigned long ago, but being “brass faced” supersedes shame and disgrace.

  17. How did Jesus get pulled into this bacchanal?

  18. “It is sad that we didn’t get the funding because, at the end of the day, it is about the children,” said Peters-Charles. “When the Ministry of Sport said they are not going to fund 72 little boys and girls, it doesn’t affect you and me. It affects the children…. “Gymnastics is bigger than Thema Williams”…. “Dr [Keith] Rowley said he is about the children and sport; and then they turn around, 42 hours before a sporting event, and say they will blank them?
    Ha, Ha, what does this have to do with Thema or Dr Rowley? You have lost the confidence of the majority of club membership and the general public and you are still pointing fingers in the wrong direction. Tic-toc, tic-toc… waiting for the gavel to drop.

  19. The society continues to fail and expects youths to believe it!! You hear the judge sum up the Naipaul murder case?? Amazing all she didn’t say was free d men and charge d husband. And he walks free today waiting on the Dana seetahal case!! Smh crazy place we live in

  20. Lasana Liburd that Thelma thing got me so angry i said nothing bc i would have looked like a racist radical and now to hear these same ppl talk about children and Jesus i at breaking point!! Where are our intellects? That is why the youths does take their own justice on the ground bc all now that wholeboard would have to have added security for the next three years!! Real talk

  21. Every time I look at that picture with Marques I can’t believe I knew this guy in his 20’s! I mean apart from the fact that he really let himself go physically?. He really was not a bad person in his youth and he comes from a respectable family. It just goes to show how a little power could change people.

  22. There is so much wrong with her statement. It appears that the TTGF volunteers have become so used to absolute power it is impossible for them to apologize or express human feelings of regret and empathy. From dismissive “we ain’t kill nobody” to comparisons to Jesus…I don’t understand them.

  23. Wait, did this lady compare the criticism of her to the crucifixion?

  24. I think she is being pushed to be the ‘face’ of the TTGF in this because the other faces needwashing.

  25. I think Peters-Charles has more than a loose screws.. maybe some cracks involved. How do they sleep?

  26. When exactly are the authorities planning on opening a criminal investigation in this matter? It’s this type of non action that results in the high incidence of white collar crime in T&T. It is time that someone be made to see the inside of golden Grove instead of resigning and walking away free.

  27. I thought it interesting that the “sake of the children” is now the cry. Although all NGOs do use that line in similar circumstances.

  28. Did that woman just compare herself to Jesus!?

    I wonder if the TTGF didn’t feel any urgency in requesting funds in advance because they are used to getting what they want for funding when they want it?

    At the Canadian Nationals a couple of weeks ago , USA college scouts were there looking for talent. Marisa’s coaches were not successful with their petition to get the AB Gym Federation to allow Marisa to steal Katie Chaput’s JO10 position on Team Alberta for this competition since Marisa did not earn or qualify for the position. Everyone was wondering why Marisa’s coaches thought they could just march in and take someone else’s earned position. So after that request was denied Marisa’s people then petitioned to compete her as an Elite, under TT instead of as a Canadian. She is a TT Olympian after all right? Canada Gym did allow her to go compete at Nationals as a TT guest and she did compete against Canada’s best and got served. I wonder if she caught any of the scouts eye by coming in near last. Maybe she’ll have better luck at the TT Nationals?

    Back in Edmonton Marisa’s gym, Ortona Gymnastics Club, just had a slew of upper level athletes walk out on them to train at a different gym. Ovidiu is now gone and no longer coaching at Ortona, not sure if he was asked to leave or if he left voluntarily. Anita remains, but she isn’t enough to train National level athletes. If the Ortona gym was hoping Marisa would give them “Olympic” coach and athlete advertising to bring in more money they have probably realized that’s not going to pan out by now. Or maybe they are just that arrogant as well.

    Most gymnasts want to be trained to win based on merit and want coaches who can coach, not just promote themselves as a National Coach, write convincing letters, and use loopholes to get themselves and their athletes to Nationals or the Olympics.

    The Friends of Gymnastics and SPORTT are on a path to start making things right for TT gymnasts. If the existing TTGF really cared about the future hopefuls they’d hand it over.