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Is an exposed shoulder pornography?! Thema’s coach on impact of topless photo

“From an adult perspective, I find it difficult to justify all the drama,” stated John Geddert, the coach of Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams and the USA Olympic team. “The photo incident has exploded into a realm of ridiculous proportions.”

The following letter is an excerpt from gymnastics coach John Geddert’s March report on Thema Williams, which was submitted to the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation on 13 March 2016 and subsequently leaked to Wired868:

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)

(Thema Williams March report)

As stated in the February report, the goals and objectives of training will remain consistent with the intent of merely improving over all form and execution, and consistency of performance.

It is a strategic part of the training process to begin a gradual decline in the overall volume of training while increasing the expectations. This, in turn, helps to produce a rested and confident athlete.

The urge to overtrain at this juncture is a common mistake. Thema knows her routines, she can perform every skill consistently, she has logged thousands of repetitions and therefore the only remaining piece to the puzzle is the establish and maintain mental confidence.

Distractions play a major role in interfering with the development and maintenance of confidence.

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)

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 TTO has certainly worn the patience thin.

BUT Thema is a fighter and with proper guidance from her coaches and supporters, she has learned a valuable lesson. And that is to focus on what she can control not on the distractions created by others.

She has been more focused than ever and motivated by the obvious and deliberate attempt (at) curtailing her Olympic bid.

From an adult perspective, I find it difficult to justify all the drama. The photo incident has exploded into a realm of ridiculous proportions.

Due to what I (and countless others) believe to be an over-reaction to a photo—which was posted a full year ago, displayed for less than hours, immediately taken down from the internet—the entire WORLD now has seen the photo.

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)

I would like to remind the TTO also that this photo was posted PRE-National Team Agreement (NTA). According to Thema, she has had zero guidance in terms of appropriate conduct in terms of education or documentation up until the recent NTA.

How is it that we as adults simply assume that athletes/children know what is appropriate?

Then, of course, it is even debatable as to whether Thema’s photo was even an example of inappropriate.

In today’s world of national team athletes posing full nudity in major publications, was this photo of an exposed shoulder seriously considered “pornography?”

My point of this rambling is not to justify the photo, as I was the one that told Thema to remove it from the social media platform.

Although I did not see the photo as being overly promiscuous, I did see where some people of a very conservative nature might not see the “ART” that it was intended (to be).

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)

My point is that the drama could have been managed more appropriately. It could have been done more discreetly and thus not hanging our athletes on the world stage.

It could have (been) resolved much more quickly, so as to remove the distractions at this vitally important period of training.

The situations are unfortunate and, yes, the blame certainly needs to be shared by the athletes. BUT adult minds should have prevailed to limit the exposure and impact.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago international gymnast Thema Williams. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago international gymnast Thema Williams.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Editor’s Note: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams was announced as the country’s representative for the Rio 2016 Olympic Test Event on Tuesday March 15.

The Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) has until April 10 to alter its choice if necessary. 

Wired868 understand that Williams’ “camp” will remain on tenterhooks until April 11.

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18 comments

  1. sorry Mr Gedert, its a Third World country, with some small minded people all with individual agendas

  2. What I don’t understand, Wired868 is why you feel the need to repost the picture with every article. Not that i think that there is anything wrong with the photo, but it does seem like overkill to keep re-posting a photo, that the young lady herself chose to take down, after a couple hours. Why does it get reposted with each new article?

    • It is a fair question. On the first day, I agonised about it but told Thema that I believe it should be posted so people realise it was nothing raunchy.
      Some people clicked into story, saw the picture, steupsed and said the TTGF was being ridiculous. If the picture wasn’t posted, they would have used their imagination and might have come up without lewd. So I think posting it defused it as a weapon.
      In terms of why we have used it from time to time, we haven’t used it in every story. But sometimes it is relevant.
      Not everyone read the story from the start. Here, the coach is saying it is just an exposed shoulder and not pornography.
      The picture supports what he is saying so it is an asset again to Thema’s camp.
      Now, you will notice we never once used either topless photo as our cover picture like some newspapers did.
      It was always inside the story but not actually used to draw people to the story.
      I can understand some people would be uneasy and I was too. But I thought it was the lesser of two evils. When you say a young woman posted a topless photo on the social media, your first image of what that must have looked like would have been unfair to Thema.

    • Lasana Liburd thank you so much for you considered and detailed response. I’m also glad to hear the young lady was consulted and her permission was given. Yes I did notice it’s never been the cover photo. And I agree 100% that it’s actually a non issue but I understand better now your choice in continuing to use it. Thanks again

    • Thanks. We are all accountable for our actions, myself included. You framed the question in a way that allowed me to answer. So thanks for that. 😉

  3. Trinidad and Tobago must wake up to reality. Many of the so-called elite who still believe the schism of a colonial education puts them on a level playing field in the world of social and economic advancement. You are still a colonial entity; you are (in dependence) on decisions of the united nations ENGLAND AND NORTH AMERICA. Now u see them now udote. Have you taken into account the young Gymnast has introduced a major innovation to the mount on the Bar exercise. Do you understand that it is Historic. Do you think in a sport that has been dominated by Europeans the latest introduction to the sport is admired and appreciated by the so-called world class sport GODS when it is only in the last five or less years MELANIN breed people have been encouraged to participate. REALLY There is nothing Erotic about the pics. If you could find them Mr. Sports Minister, stand up for this classy and talented young lady and don’t fall for the schism.

  4. Pornography is whatever the decision makers decide it to be. It doesn’t have to be logical or even consistent. Just like the “golden rule”: “He who makes the gold makes the rule”.

  5. Note too how the gymnastics coach “intervened” and convinced Thema to remove the photograph without “interfering” with her autonomy.
    Take note Sport Minister. Intervention doesn’t have to mean giving orders.

  6. It shouldn’t be business as usual with everyone pretending as if nothing ever happened.

  7. Everyone involved in sport can take a page from Geddert’s philosophy and apply it to everyday life; especially coaches and sport administrators in T&T !!! He’s empathetic, concerned, and an athlete centered person.

  8. Mr. Geddert sounds extremely educated (I stated an obvious here though)

  9. Their autocratic heads need to be under serious review…

  10. I love this article. I hope all members of the TTGF would sit down and read this slowly especially these parts… “The photo incident has exploded into a realm of ridiculous proportions.” and “From an adult perspective, I find it difficult to justify all the drama. The photo incident has exploded into a realm of ridiculous proportions.” and “My point of this rambling is not to justify the photo, as I was the one that told Thema to remove it from the social media platform. Although I did not see the photo as being overly promiscuous, I did see where some people of a very conservative nature might not see the “ART” that it was intended (to be).”