The Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) will send a representative to the Rio 2016 Olympics Test Event regardless of whether Thema Williams, Marisa Dick or neither of the above is declared to be fit to represent the “Red, Black and White.”
As both gifted gymnasts prepare to face the TTGF’s disciplinary committee over revealing photographs on the social media, TTGF general secretary Elicia Peters Charles stressed that, although Williams earned first crack at the final Rio qualifier, the spot belongs to the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC).
Both gymnasts, therefore, are replaceable. And the TTGF can put forward another athlete for April’s Test Event in Rio, even though she did not compete at the Glasgow 2015 World Artistic Games championship.
“I want Trinidad and Tobago to know that it is a TTO spot and not an individual spot,” Peters Charles told Wired868. “You didn’t have to go to the World Games to be able to go to the Test Event. (Also) both Thema and Marisa made the mark required to represent Trinidad and Tobago. No one person made it.”
News that the TTGF is prepared to find a third gymnast at short notice, if necessary, to represent the country, may not appease concerned fans, who are anxious to see the country get the best possible representation at the upcoming Olympics.
And it certainly won’t calm the nerves of the two young gymnasts, who are anxiously awaiting their fate.
However, Peters Charles made it clear that she has not prejudged the matter and the TTGF will go into the disciplinary meeting with an open mind.
The decisive meeting was scheduled for this week but has now been delayed to an undetermined time next week, due to the TTGF’s difficulty in sourcing a lawyer willing to offer legal services free of charge.
“The meeting will be next week,” said Peters Charles. “We wanted to do it this week but we didn’t have a legal representative…
“We don’t have any (budget) that will allow us to pay a lawyer, so we have to ask for pro bono work.”
The disciplinary committee will consist of seven people with just two members from outside the fraternity: TTGF president David Marquez, general secretary Peters Charles, a representative for the registered gymnastics clubs, a representative for the coaching body, one trustee, a legal representative and a mediator.
Despite suggesting the case has not been prejudged, the TTGF general secretary did say that both athletes breached their contracts.
“It was a breach,” the TTGF general secretary told Wired868. “The reason it has gone to the disciplinary committee is because a breach took place.”
Both Williams and Dick signed contracts, after last October’s World Games, which under the heading of “Ambassador of the Sport”, stated that:
“I am a representative of TTGF and must conduct myself in a manner that upholds the name, reputation and goodwill of TTGF… As such, my conduct publicly known and not publicly known must not reflect poorly upon or bring discredit to TTGF, its other athletes, its coaches or its events and programs.
“My conduct extends beyond actions on the field of play, including but not limited to
actions/posting/images disseminated in the public domain.”
Williams’ photograph, which landed her in hot water with the TTGF, was posted on her private Instagram page for barely 24 hours, according to the athlete, before being removed—almost 10 months prior to her pre-Olympics contract.
However, the TTGF believes the 20 year old was in violation of the clause which reads: “my conduct publicly known and not publicly known…”
Dick’s own photograph was posted on SnapChat just last month.
Williams’ photograph was leaked to the TTGF by “Georgette Heinz” on February 22 while, three days later, “Kamara Heinz” responded by releasing Dick’s topless shot.
Thus far, the public response has largely been supportive of both ladies, although there were grumbles regarding Canada-born Dick’s split loyalties. Former England-born Trinidad and Tobago World Cup player, Shaka Hislop, attempted to address the latter issue in a op-ed for Wired868.
Andreas Stueven, the Trinidad and Tobago Triathlon Federation president, said, in his personal opinion, the TTGF’s response to the topless photographs was overblown.
“I do not think that this is a particularly raunchy or unbecoming picture for my taste,” said Stueven, after the circulation of Williams’ photograph. “Young people—girls and boys—are exploring their sexuality and once it stays within boundaries, I do not see that as raunchy. If you google Sports Illustrated, you will find a lot of pictures and some of them probably ‘raunchier’ than this one.
“Athletes train (and) as a byproduct they have sexy bodies. That applies again to male and female alike. Thema is not the only athlete to pose and show the result of her hard work.
“I know a few others personally and if you again google you will find a lot of celebrity athletes having posed for similar pictures. I do not see this as unbecoming.”
Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis was concerned with the timing of the furore.
“The TTOC is very athlete-centred and athlete-focused and therefore at this point in time,” Lewis told Wired868, last week, “all our Olympic athletes are very focused on preparing for whatever various qualification they have.
“They are at a crucial time with the Olympic Games just months away.
“The timing of the release of such a picture, which I have not seen, is concerning because it distracts both the athlete and the administrators from what should be the focus, which is preparing for an upcoming Test Event which forms the final qualifier for Rio 2016.”
It is uncertain whether next week’s disciplinary meeting will have any bearing on the identity of which athlete represents Trinidad and Tobago at April’s Rio Olympics Test Event.