Home / Olympic Games / You want Thema because she’s black! Gymnastics insider wants Marisa for Rio

You want Thema because she’s black! Gymnastics insider wants Marisa for Rio

With less than 24 hours before the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) must officially select its athlete for the Rio Olympics Test Event, a gymnastics insider has admitted that the sporting body is divided between its two star athletes, Thema Williams and Marisa Dick.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Marisa Dick.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Marisa Dick.

And, intriguingly, the source claimed that race is a factor and Dick, who was born in Canada but qualifies to represent Trinidad through her mother, Hannifa, is the gymnast who is being victimised and not the other way around.

“The federation is divided because there are people who want to see a black girl from tots and tumblers go to Rio,” the source, who is very close to the TTGF, told Wired868. “They don’t want the best gymnast to go, they want a black girl to go!”

And, in the strongest indication yet that the local body is considering reversing its initial choice for next month’s Olympic Test Event, the source insisted Dick was the better of the two gymnasts and claimed that Williams failed to fulfil her contract.

When reminded that Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis said Williams already earned her spot, the source insisted that the TTOC could not dictate to the TTGF on the matter.

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“Brian Lewis cannot say that (Williams) has to go,” said the gymnastics insider. “He cannot tell the federation who can go to the Olympics…

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis (left) with a delegate at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. (Courtesy TTOC)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis (left) with a delegate at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
(Courtesy TTOC)

“If you look carefully at that same press release (after the TTGF met the TTOC on the selection issue for the Olympics), it said the federation will be monitoring the athletes for consistency and so on. Thema has not performed consistently since.”

The statement is a complete reversal to the initial position taken by the TTGF, which is that the gymnast with the best result at the 2015 Glasgow World Artistic Gymnastics Championship would automatically qualify for the Rio Test Event.

“The WAG gymnast who scores the highest all-around score at the World Gymnastics Championships in Glasgow 2015,” stated the TTGF contract, which was provided to Wired868, “will be the athlete selected by the TTGF Selection Committee to move forward to represent TTO at the Olympic Test Event in Rio, Brazil in April 2016 once her scores allow her selection by FIG to this event.”

Williams finished 59th in Glasgow while Dick was 77th. But the TTGF refused to endorse Williams and the matter went before the TTOC.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams performs at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games. Williams is in line to be Trinidad and Tobago's first gymnast to perform at an Olympic Games. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams performs at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.
Williams is in line to be Trinidad and Tobago’s first gymnast to perform at an Olympic Games.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

“As far as the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee is aware, Thema Williams is the athlete representing Trinidad and Tobago at this qualifier, which is in April,” Lewis told Wired868 on 23 February 2016, “and Marisa Dick is the alternate.”

Wired868 contacted the TTOC president again last night on the issue.

“Based on what transpired at that meeting (in late 2015), the TTOC formed an understanding,” said Lewis, who made calls to verify the authenticity of comments attributed to Wired868’s source, “and our understanding coming out of that meeting, based on what was communicated to the athletes, was that it was Thema Williams (for the Olympic Test Event) with Marisa Dick as the alternate.

“The gymnastics federation is obviously indicating that they received a different legal opinion…”

By afternoon, the Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Darryl Smith had assured the gymnastics body that, based on advice from the TTOC, the government had decided not to get involved at this stage.

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 SPORTT)
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 SPORTT)

“NGBs (National Governing Bodies) are independent sporting entities whose autonomy is sacrosanct under the Olympic Charter,” stated the Sport Ministry release, “and general principles of sports law.”

And the TTGF, according to the source, is confident that it can overrule its initial agreement with the athletes due to a second contract called the “Athlete Agreement: Olympic Test Event Rio/Olympic Games 2016” which was signed by both gymnasts in January 2016.

Clause three of the second contract states: “(…) When I accept an invitation to compete in an event as named athlete/alternative for the Olympic Test Event/Olympic Games, I will make every effort to perform to the best of my ability…”

Dick interpreted that clause to mean their pre-Test Event performances would have some bearing on which athlete went on to Rio.

“Only one of us gets to go to the Olympics, so it’s kind of a cutthroat time,” said Dick, in an interview with Edmonton’s CBS News just days after signing the TTGF contract. “But it’s exciting.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Marisa Dick competes at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games. Dick placed 14th with a total of 51.25. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Marisa Dick competes at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.
Dick placed 14th with a total of 51.25.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

And, with Williams recovering from a knee injury, Dick managed better scores in both FIG events in 2016.

The gymnastics insider agreed with Dick’s assessment and pointed to a report from Williams’ coach, John Geddert, as justification for a possible change in their selected gymnast.

Geddert, who led USA to gold in the artistic gymnastics event at the London 2012 Olympics, was required to provide an update to the TTGF on Williams, who trains at his gym in Michigan.

“The double arabian (manoeuvre) has been consistent and is ready to insert into routines once she recovers from the knee issue,” stated Geddert, in his March report to the TTGF. “(…) Thema’s training attitude has been better than ever before. She remains focused and determined.”

Geddert also referenced the possible impact that the TTGF’s disciplinary proceedings against Williams was having on her preparation.

Photo: US women gymnastics team’s coach John Geddert celebrates with the rest of the team after the US won gold in the artistic gymnastics event of the London Olympic Games on 31 July 2012. Geddert coaches Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams in Michigan. (Copyright AFP 2016/Thomas Coex)
Photo: US women gymnastics team’s coach John Geddert celebrates with the rest of the team after the US won gold in the artistic gymnastics event of the London Olympic Games on 31 July 2012.
Geddert coaches Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams in Michigan.
(Copyright AFP 2016/Thomas Coex)

“Distractions play a major role in interfering with the development and maintenance of confidence,” said Geddert. “The impact of the distractions (of) this month’s drama coupled with the distraction of the Test Event selection procedures fiasco, on top of the prolonged delay in getting any kind of reliable answers from the (TTGF) has certainly worn the patience thin.

“BUT Thema is a fighter…”

Remarkably, the gymnastics insider interpreted Geddert’s report as proof that Williams is supposedly injured, lacking confidence and has a bad attitude.

“I am sure you understand English, so I want you to get a copy of her coach’s March report and tell me what that says to you,” said the source. “What does ‘attitude getting better’ mean to you? Thema has a bad attitude, damaged knee and damaged confidence!”

There was no mention of the topless photos, which caused a stir last month but has since gone cold.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams. Williams said she left this photo up for just one day before removing it in February 2015. It was circulated on Tuesday 24 February 2016 by "Georgette Heinz." (Courtesy Georgette Heinz)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams.
Williams said she left this photo up for just one day before removing it in February 2015.
It was circulated on Tuesday 24 February 2016 by “Georgette Heinz.”
(Courtesy Georgette Heinz)

On February 23, someone who identified themselves as “Georgette Heinz” and the mother of a young gymnast, sent a topless photograph of Williams to the TTGF and demanded action against the athlete.

Within 48 hours, the TTGF executive met and decided upon punishment for the Tots and Tumblers gymnast and former St Joseph’s Convent (Port of Spain) student.

The TTGF pointed to a clause under its signed January 2016 contracts with the girls which stated: “I am a representative of TTFG 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.”

Before the TTGF could reveal its decision, the body was caught out when a topless photograph of Dick was released by a “Kamara Heinz.” It was subsequently suggested that the second poster may have meant to write: “Karma Heinz.”

Photo: Marisa Dick, the Rio alternate for Thema Williams, was also referred to the TTGF's Disciplinary Committee for a topless photo. (Courtesy Kamara Heinz)
Photo: Marisa Dick, the Rio alternate for Thema Williams, was also referred to the TTGF’s Disciplinary Committee for a topless photo.
(Courtesy Kamara Heinz)

On both occasions, the posters had the personal and work email addresses of several TTGF board members, which led to speculation that the photographs were leaked by gymnastics officials who were at odds with each other.

The TTGF executive comprises of: president David Marquez, general secretary Elicia Peters-Charles, first vice president Akil Wattley, second vice president Ricardo Lue Shue, treasurer Susanne Babooram and assistant treasurer Donna Lue Shue, who is the wife of the second vice president.

The TTGF, rather than submit Dick to the same penalty it had decided for Williams, opted to send the matter to its Disciplinary Committee.

It was just as well. Had the TTGF suspended Williams, it would have been illegal under the same Athletes Agreement.

Section 3.2 stated: “No termination or suspension may be imposed, however, except by application of the procedures identified in Article 8 Item 7 of the TTGF Constitution.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation second vice president and former president Ricardo Lue Shue (left) shakes hands with SPORTT Company official Anthony Creed. (Courtesy SPORTT)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation second vice president and former president Ricardo Lue Shue (left) shakes hands with SPORTT Company official Anthony Creed.
(Courtesy SPORTT)

So, in keeping with its constitution, the TTGF called a disciplinary committee meeting to adjudicate.

The Disciplinary Committee consisted of six Council members and an external mediator, who were: Marquez, Peters-Charles, Babooram, Dale Ali, Mary Charles, Dr Angelus Pilgrim and gymnastics outsider David Abdulah.

They met last Wednesday to adjudicate on what Peters-Charles called “a clear breach” of the girls’ code of conduct.

But Peters-Charles was, apparently, wrong.

Abdulah, the MSJ political leader and trade unionist, said that, at the March 9 meeting, the issue was referred to the TTGF’s council instead.

“There was just one meeting (with the TTGF) and the recommendation was made to refer the matter back to the council,” Abdulah told Wired868. “I have not heard anything since, so it is really for the council to say what they were doing.”

Photo: MSJ political leader David Abdulah said the TTGF Disciplinary Committee was advised to move the matter involving topless photos of Thema Williams and Marisa Dick to its council. (Courtesy Eternal Pantomime)
Photo: MSJ political leader David Abdulah said the TTGF Disciplinary Committee was advised to move the matter involving topless photos of Thema Williams and Marisa Dick to its council.
(Courtesy Eternal Pantomime)

According to the TTGF Constitution, seven days notice are required before a Council meeting can be held.

By happenstance, the TTGF already had a Council meeting scheduled for March 11.

However, on the day of the meeting, Council members were told that the meeting was postponed until March 15. The reason for postponement was that a TTGF official supposedly called the relevant members and deduced there would not been insufficient numbers for a quorum.

Today, the second proposed Council meeting was called off for the same reason.

It means that the TTGF membership would not get to formally consider the merits or demerits of the initial case against Williams and Dick or discuss the body’s selection for the upcoming Olympic Test Event.

Arguably, Marquez’s hand was strengthened today as Smith and Lewis said they would not interfere, so as to avoid possible international sanctions against the body.

Photo: Sport Minister Darryl Smith (centre) meets with TTGF president David Marquez and his executive committee. (Courtesy SPORTT)
Photo: Sport Minister Darryl Smith (centre) meets with TTGF president David Marquez and his executive committee.
(Courtesy SPORTT)

Tomorrow is the decision day. The gymnastics insider revealed her leanings.

“Dick is the better gymnast,” said the source.

In the end, Williams’ historic performance at the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championship might be in vain.

According to the clause on “Dispute Resolution” in the gymnasts’ Olympic agreement: “All disputes arising out of or connected with this agreement are subject to resolution exclusively through the procedures set forth in the TTGF bylaws and/or, if appropriate, through the grievance procedures of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee.”

The TTGF bylaws does not specifically address any complaint from an athlete who feels he or she was unfairly overlooked for a competition. And, if it were to return to the Disciplinary Committee, the constitution does not give a deadline by which time the committee must decide upon a matter or even meet to discuss it.

Under the TTOC’s constitution, any organisation can submit an unresolved issue for consideration, which must be decided upon within 30 days.

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)

Should the TTGF select Dick tomorrow, Williams’ next competition might be in the TTOC’s judicial room rather than on the balance beam.

(Statement from TTOC president Brian Lewis)

I want to reiterate that we stand by our understanding of what took place at the meeting with the TTGF. And that is that Thema Williams is the selected athlete, on the basis of what was publicised. And that Marisa Dick is the alternate.

We respect that the gymnastics federation has a  process that has started and it would be premature for the Olympic Committee to speculate or comment on the outcome of that process. we also respect the right of the TTGF to have sought and received legal advice.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief 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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166 comments

  1. So Trinbagonians want Thema because she is black (nothing to do with her out-scoring and placing higher than her alternate) and the TTGF wants Dick because she’s white and think that Thema’s too black to represent Trinbago (only remembers her Trini roots when she can’t make the Canadian team).

    TTGF, you all already look like fools, quit while you’re ahead.

  2. U always have to prove yourself ! Work harder be stronger be more talented be more this be more that ! But u can never just be black !! Stop the n word in the music and media maybe we may one day be just human ! ( n word in the dictionary means lazy and stingy ) so frek sake stop using it !!

  3. We want Thema the same way we wanted Obama because they are black and the best persons for the job.

  4. Dick’s supporters are ridiculous. Playing the race card. Thelma is going because she is the better athlete. She was leagues ahead of Dick in WAG. Dick is just trying to use her Mother’s heritage for a trip to the Olympics. STEUPSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

  5. all this chaos to announce such? sttwww

  6. I thought we wanted her because she earned her spot…. Stueps

  7. Thank you so much Lasana❤??✔??!!!

  8. Thema ranked higher that Marisa at the qualifying event. By 18 places.

    I haven’t read or heard anyone saying that they don’t want Marisa because she isn’t black enough. They just want Thema to have the spot she earned.

  9. Thank You So Much 4 Wired868 & All The Kindhearted Citizens Who Highlighted The Injustice & Stood 4 Change…#GodBlessUAll❤✔???✊!!!

  10. Good finally some cut funding sense has prevail in this one..!!! Thank Goodness Thelma wasnt around all of this baccanal that they could of used to damaged her confidence and say we told u so bull crap!!!! Go hard Thelma and Go strong GOD and TNT is with you on this so take no prisoners when u go out on the field for TNT !!! Represent!!

  11. This story gets more and more ridiculous. Thema earn her spot, let her compete

  12. Social media pressure is no joke these days man. I love it !!

  13. Hope TTGF has their own money to send Marisa Dick to RIO or she and her parents can finance her trip to Rio .. personally she does not even identify as Trinbagonian so why allow her to use T&T as a step ladder … Money hard enough to come by for true true Trinbagonians

  14. Lol. I don’t know. I hope not. But who knows…

  15. The athlete scoring higher at WAG and making the qualifying mark gets the green light. ONly a Trini could complicate that. The insider should pursue law as a profession with her imaginative take on Thema’s coach’s report.

  16. These people really gone crazy yes.

  17. I would not express it the way Nicole did, but If I would have gone to another country with my talent

  18. It’s not even the point. They’re just distracting from the real issue

  19. is the competition so stiff, they know they can’t make the grade to represent the country where they presently reside, So go to T&t, they desperate for a medal. Get real people in authority, separate our local athletes

  20. I swear if I was Thema I tell dem hdmc long time!!!!

  21. this story is conflicting, there are so many twists and turns.Another example of Administrators frustrating athletes who are the ones practicing their hearts out. why people who live abroad, suddenly when is Olympics, remember they have T&T roots.

  22. Surely it’s not because Thema outperformed her at a qualifying event. No, not that. Of course not. STEUPS. #OrcBusiness

  23. “…the source insisted Dick was the better of the two gymnasts…”
    Based on what? Steups.

  24. Wow. Message loud and clear to athletes is not to waste time competing on behalf of Trinidad?

  25. Isn’t there space for both contenders?

  26. Is this what selection on a National Team has come to? And of all places..in Trinidad?…the COLOUR OF ONE’S SKIN shouldn’t be a factor, or sway those selecting anyone for international competition, …when athletes line up to compete, the colour of your skin in irrelevant, so whoever brought up colour in this issue…SHAME ON YOU. May the more worthy athlete be selected or it will also be SHAME ON THE SELECTORS.

  27. They are both talented sportswomen however i believe Thema Williams is the better athlete to represent T&T in Gymnastics at the 2016 Olympics.

  28. Stop calling for the protesters , ppl gonna get upset because they usually on vacation as this is their Easter break …..
    TTGA destroying the young lady carreer …..

  29. Ahhhhh the ever convenient race card. What ethnicity is Dick?

  30. What is it? A cultural thing? Why do we always have this nonsense on the cusp of great things

  31. Marisa Dick just competed in the Gymnix event in Canada wherr she struggled her scores were almost 3 points lower than Themas world score in gymnastics that is huge, she also was not competing in the ‘big show of international elites’ she was is a lesser skilled challenge event more like the JO level 10, Marisa may have a skill named after that her ex team mate invented but that by no way means she is the higher skilled athlete, she is not. Only in Canada she was a National Open Athlete which is NOT the Elite stream in Canada, she didn’t have the skill set, she’s a sweet girl coached by a coach who last year was arrested on a Carrie an Airlines flight (reported in the T&T Guardian) but by no means the higher skilled athlete

  32. Because is the deadline 4 Olympic selection is already upon us…#WeNotStupid??

  33. is only games plenty games. The length of time they’re taking just to decide this matter is ridiculous. What is so hard? As I said before they’re looking for a plausible excuse. Why do they feel because Dick is foreign born, she’s better? Cause it seems to be boiling down to that

    • beside foreign born.. she has a presentable colour in there eyes to show the world what Trinidad and Tobago has to offer…….they think thelma to black and unpresentable looking to send Rio!! and lets be honest from the start we all know its been about race and colour!! from the head go….!!! Mind you the TTGF is mostly situated in the west and we all kno the mentality of the west!!! side people!! so all of this!! is just there hands in play!! but i will say!! they will never get ah next opportunity like this again on the back and hard work of Thelma or anyone of not colour appreciated in there eyes!! to be seen in the world stage!!

  34. buh what the jail is dis..sigh sad that colour in this day and age of trinidad has to come in to play in this Olympics Rio test !! but i will say God doh like Ugly!! this will be the death of that federation!!! mark my words!!!

  35. I think this approach solved all sports competitions. No need for anyone to earn anything. Let’s just give 1st place to the one who is determined to be better. No need for qualifications and stuff.

  36. lol i guessed she’s ranked higher because of the colour of her skin hahahahaah

  37. ..And others want the “non-black” gymnast to go. No doubt. Let’s see how the TTGF decides. The clock ticking on them. And they will have to live with the consequences of their decision..

  38. No because Thema is Ranked higher on the World Stage…#SheJustHappens2BeAnAfricanQueen✔❤???!!!