Home / Rio 2016 / Geddert: Thema is not injured! US gymnast coach says TTGF made ‘irrational’ decision

Geddert: Thema is not injured! US gymnast coach says TTGF made ‘irrational’ decision

Thema Williams’ coach, John Geddert, has slammed the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation for its supposed irrational decision in withdrawing Williams from the 2016 Rio Olympics Test Event, which will take place tomorrow on Sunday April 17.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams.

And, more relevantly, Geddert insisted that Williams is physically fine, despite the fact that the TTGF used a report from the coach as justification for axing the former St Joseph’s Convent (Port of Spain) student.

“I wish to say that portions of my report were blown out of context and exaggerated,” stated Geddert, in a email that was leaked to Wired868. “Therefore when I said ‘podium was a disaster’, this is to be taken in the context of several athletes who performed on that day.

“In fact the reason for this was—and this is not limited to Thema—as she was getting used to the lighting, podium, ceiling height and other acclimatization factors. The rationale for the podium is to have the athlete acclimatize themselves to the competition arena.

“This ‘6 falls’ reason singled out by you to pull her is irrational in  my respectful view. Furthermore, Thema went on to perform an almost flawless routine on the bars…

“I now confirm that the doctor has cleared Thema to compete in the circumstance using her good judgement as the determining factor. I, as Thema’s coach, require that she continues to represent the country.”

Photo: United States head coach John Geddert (right) hugs gymnast Gabrielle Douglas at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Geddert trains Trinidad and Tobago gymnast, Thema Williams, at his gym in Michigan. (Courtesy Desert News)
Photo: United States head coach John Geddert (right) hugs gymnast Gabrielle Douglas at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Geddert trains Trinidad and Tobago gymnast, Thema Williams, at his gym in Michigan.
(Courtesy Desert News)

Geddert’s claim is likely to form part of a legal appeal by Williams, which will aim to reinstate the gymnast by tomorrow morning. At the moment, the TTGF has given her place at the Test event to alternate, Marisa Dick.

Wired868 will provide more details of the appeal shortly.

The following are the emails exchanged between Geddert, who led the US women to gold at the London 2012 Olympics, and TTGF president, Marquez:

(From coach John Geddert to the TTGF)

At 7.24 pm on April 15: …Podium was a disaster with 6 falls on 3 events. She has been dealing with a sore ankle to the point that I asked her to withdraw last week. She assured me she can do this.

We have been limiting all pounding and landings yet today she showed little signs of being able to perform well. We will rest tomorrow and rely on heart…

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)

(From TTGF president David Marquez to Geddert)

At 12.27 am on April 16: Good Evening John, Please note that I tried calling you at the hotel and on your cell numerous times but all went to voicemail.

Your e-mailed report you sent to Frances earlier tonight has caused great concern for our Federation. Your comments about pulling Thema a week ago because of her injury but allowing her to make the call seems it was not the best of judgements evidenced by your description of day 3: “Podium was a disaster with 6 falls on 3 events.” At this level, this is totally unacceptable.

You went on further to explain that: “We have been limiting all pounding and landings yet today she showed little signs of being able to perform well.”

What this says to us John it is that Thema will not perform well at this competition due to her injury. This is a country place and as a federation we must do what is best for the country, i.e. ensuring the best athlete represents the country.

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)

As a result, the Federation has unanimously decided to pull Thema from the test event. Arrangements are being made to have the alternate Marisa Dick compete.

We do suggest that Thema be taken to the meet physician to report on the extent of her injury. We would appreciate a copy of that report.

As a Federation, we know this is hard for the athlete but the facts are clear, she is just not at her best due to an injury that should have been reported to the federation earlier. Again we have to do what is best for the country which is to give us the best chance to qualify for the Olympic Games.

Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.

Respectfully,

David Marquez – President

Trinidad & Tobago Gymnastics Federation

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams performs a handstand at John Geddert's Twistars Gymnastics Club in Michigan. (Courtesy Thema Williams)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams performs a handstand at John Geddert’s Twistars Gymnastics Club in Michigan.
(Courtesy Thema Williams)

(From coach John Geddert to the TTGF)

At 5.17 pm on April 16: Dear TTGF, I write to you in response to your email sent on Saturday 16th April, 2016 at 12.27 am. I wish to say that portions of my report were blown out of context and exaggerated.

Therefore when I said podium was a disaster, this is to be taken in the context of several athletes who performed on that day. In fact, the reason for this was—and this is not limited to Thema—as she was getting used to the lighting, podium, ceiling height and other acclimatization factors.

The rationale for the podium is to have the athlete acclimatize themselves to the competition arena. This ‘6 falls’ reason singled out by you to pull her is irrational in  my respectful view.

Furthermore, Thema went on to perform an almost flawless routine on the bars. I reiterate that my statement in my report “we have been limiting all pounding and landings” is normal (…) during the preparation period leading up to an important event (we used the same strategy going into World Championships).

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)

I say this as her coach knowing the intent, purport and weight that this carries. I do not limit it to my words. I now confirm that the doctor has cleared Thema to compete in the circumstance using her good judgement as the determining factor.

I as Thema’s coach require that she continues to represent the country. I also continue to rely on my earlier email sent on the 16th April 2016 at 12.57 pm.

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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147 comments

  1. “Unfairness – this is hardest to deal with, but unfortunately that is how our country works. People with connections, rich dads, beautiful faces, and fair skin find it easier to make it – not just in Trinidad and Tobago, but everywhere. And sometimes it is just plain luck. There are so few opportunities for us as black people, so many stars need to be aligned for us to make it happen. Merit and hard work is not always linked to achievement in the short term, but the long term correlation is high, and ultimately things do work out. But realize, there will be some people luckier than we are all unfair game dose play over. AM SOOOOO MAAADD #Thema

  2. Best move since sliced bread.

  3. Just heard you on i95.5. Nice interview Lasana Liburd!

  4. Lol is so funny that after all this people think that the TTGF committee would do the “honorable thing” and resign ….if this involved “honour” would this have gone down in the first place?

  5. Based on what I read in Lasana’s piece, the coach made it quite clear that Thema could have performed and he left instructions with another coach to execute his functions pertaining to the Thema’s performance. It now stands to reason that the TTGF, acted in haste and more than likely, with some degree of bias in pulling Thema. The following questions beg,…was Thrma medically examined?..NO, was Maria medically examined?..NO. There are so many other factors in this case which will hamper the performance of Maria, the long flying hours, the stop over, the emotional last minute decision, and the most important in this issue is not having a coach who is accustomed to the athletes routine, this discipline needs concentration and calm nerves. Really, there is little blame which can be attributed to Thema’s team, so the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the TTGF who in the first place was reluctant with the Thema’s selection and then hasten to replace her without documented proof (medical), how biased can one be, or to put it mildly…how stupid can an executive be…are they really fit to lead, administrate, be perceived to be neutral in their dealings? If they are not, they should therefore do the honourable thing and vacate office…or be removed.

  6. When an incident like this occurs, the athletes are not to be blamed, their involvement is merely their ability to perform at their best in order to gain selection. The problem though, is when we have corrupted and biased minds involved in the selection process…coaches, a selection committee, a biased and unqualified administration and dishonest or unrealistic supporters, that’s where the problem arises. What governs all of the above though, is a strong, fair and honest administration. Do we have those qualities in the TTGF?..”questionable” is the general consensus.

  7. Next time d coach should say what he really means now is he who put her out bottom line

  8. I would like to see the coach’s email. He may have to take some of the blame this time

  9. Hard part is….If the canadian federation called Dick….would she even be knocking on Trinidads door. And oh they just happened to be able to buy a ticket to Rio yesterday? They had this planed already. Just so happend that the supposedly got a “valid excuse” so it wont “look bad”.
    Again mediocraty at its best. The lower ranked athlete gets to go in place of the other….absolute crap.

  10. Obviously, what ever decision the TTGF came up with, after the controversy some time ago, the one underlining factor which remains is that the are not fit to govern. The entire executive should do the honourable thing and voluntarily tender their resignations as no one now has the confidence that they could / would be trusted with true governance. Seems to me that their intention was always to send the alternate to the qualifiers, it was just a matter of simmering the fire until an excuse arose, whether legitimate or not, then move forward with their agenda. But then, will we allow this injustice to prematurely end like every other injustice, which prevailed in other associations in the past?…I say NO..they have to vacate their high and mighty positions, or we would have failed as a sporting community to support fair play in selection of TEAMS, whether local or international which clearly reflects on team or individual performance and results.

  11. I remember a Chinese gymnast who fell in the Olympics and became paralyzed …. Kinda hoping lightening cud strike this evening in Rio and you know who is struck and paralyzed … so damn angry!

  12. I wish these old ass people who run this organization and done live they lives would stop playing with young people life and passion. These people on the board probably never participated in an international competition and only hold credentials via what they pay for.

  13. Agreed! They didn’t think that Marisa would move so quickly and fly down to Brazil- her coach waited until the LAST second to alert TTGF and when they tried contacting him he was conveniently UNAVAILABLE. If she was “NOT injured” like he is stating NOW- retracting his EMAIL then why did he leave Brazil? If there was a family emergency why did he not secure a TEMP/ REPLACEMENT coach?
    The whole Thema camp was aware of Thema’s injuries and Marisa’s nudish picture they just wanted to deflect the light from Thema!

  14. Didn’t you all read what her coach said?
    He said he asked her to withdrw due to a sore ankle!!!
    He now wants to turn around and say his email was taken out of context!

  15. They seriously playing with this girl’s athletic career. Won’t be surprised if she migrates to where she can get the proper recognition due her and real opportunities to succeed.

  16. hope she fails to qualify or does one honourable thing and does not perform but that is hoping for too much

  17. Do much hate for one black girl….i starting to feel we ent getting the whole history behind Thema and the TTGF…..something ent rite boi

  18. They are really out to get this girl. Imagine after all her sacrifice they pull her out now at the last minute. These people are unfit to run anything. Another WICB.

  19. When i thought WICB was the worst, up comes this hijack by TTGF. Petty and small-minded “officials”!

  20. The mind set is difficult to change. She does not fit the mold. Be real.

  21. So they lied and sent out a false release in their statement. Why are they hell Bent on destroying this girls career? Something is fundamentally wrong here.

  22. Wow! I was hoping for the best 🙁

  23. Lasana Liburd Don’t see why he would leave before she was due to perform. Unless he couldn’t get a flight out afterward or he’s accepted she won’t be performing. Do you know what time she’s due to perform?

  24. I think the article says that he was upset about the death and the funeral is tomorrow. It didn’t give a timeframe tho

  25. Is that not the same Blue Shue who has gone to Rio to coach Marisa? I hope he used his own money because is forensic inquiry criminal charges jail and becoming someone’s concubine for them yes

  26. The death of his daughter’s boyfriend apparently. I was told he asked to leave yesterday but I didn’t get proof of his request.
    Still waiting to see what other info is at hand.

  27. So the real question is what is their real problem with thema? It seems like its something personal that happened. Lets find out

  28. Why did he ask to leave Lasana?

  29. It was unrelated due to the death as mentioned.

  30. The coach asked to leave even before he knew or responded to Thema issues though.

  31. 1962, 1970; we still have to go through this stress

  32. This is a tough one. The coach’s email suggest that Thelma’s injury was affecting her ability to perform well. He was hoping for a miracle. The TTGF’s decision to pull Thelma was a bit hasty, and should have been done only after a meeting with her coach and doctor to get the facts of the matter.

    • To a degree, it isnt so tough as you and most of us can agree their was a lack of common courtesy from the association. Manager and athlete learned of change from athlete’s mom. Smh

    • Brian Jordan – yes. Fully agree. The final decision might be the right one, but the process that was used is highly questionable and inappropriate. And this is made worst when there’s already a public perception that Thelma is not the TTGF’s favorite to represent the country.

  33. another version of a local wicb!!

  34. Have you signed the petition yet? Just go and sign it to ensure an injustice is not perpetuated and our T&T and our limited resources is not squandered ……. Because somebody will have to pay damages exemplary damages and legal fees ….

  35. If we both agreed about foreign athletes representing T&T there would be no debate and it is moot to even believe you can separate that fact from any debate on what is taking place right now! I have no problem with foreign based athletes

  36. Unbelievable this TTGF board, seems to be ready to jump at anything to remove Thema

  37. What a mess! A full investigation by an independent third party is needed, and let the cards fall where they may.

  38. In his third and final report to the TTGF, on the day before the competition, Geddert says he suggested that Thema withdraw?
    Why didn’t he tell the TTGF he suggested that on the day that he suggested it? He didn’t think the TTGF would be bold enough to replace Thema at the final hour? Was that fair to Marissa?
    They’re playing games on both sides…
    And I’m not sure anybody here can speak with any great degree of confidence as to when the game playing started or why…

    • I agree no one can speak to the facts or the actually motives on either side. But the actions of the TTGF in removing her without first speaking to her coach or even her stinks of a breach of natural justice and a denial of a right to be heard. Procedure could kill something even if there is justification.

    • This is a tale of two females … one a hardworking patriot and the other an equally hardworking but self serving opportunist … So Miss patriot worked her butt off from the age of 6 and based on her hard work gained recognition for her country. Miss Opportunist work equally hard from who knows when but her country was already recognized and filled with much better athletes. Miss Patriot was led to believe that her hard work dedication patriotism and desire had paid off but wait Miss Opportunist missed her mark and was not chosen to represent the country of her birth because she was not good enough by their standards and she is not better than Miss Patriot. I worked real hard even came up with this vulgar sounding move…. I deserve recognition for it ….. Here’s what I will do …. Discredit Miss Patriot get her disqualified and slide into her space by default claim nationality by default and showcase myself not my nation .. No national pride nothing so noble just my self serving ‘hunger’ for recognition and possibly endorsements =ing $$ …. To be continued because I am sure there are those who feel they can tell a better story..

    • Well they both have a right to represent the country. Let’s start from there dispassionately.

    • Afiya France this is no longer about representing a country … for the life of me I can’t understand why people are burying their heads and buying into that crap

    • I think the comments from Thema’s coach were very damaging. Labelling something a disaster and saying you suggested withdrawal a week ago and there has been no improvement? That from the coach? I would think replacement is an appropriate step.
      But I agree the TTGF has tainted itself with the handling of this matter and so everything it does now would be seen through a dirty lens.
      Having said that however, the TTGF did attempt to contact Geddert via phone and was unsuccessful and there was a 17 hour time lapse between when the TTGF sent its response to Geddert and when Geddert responded. Really? In this day and age? And Geddert’s 5:17pm response actually seems to come after the deadline for submitting any changes. All curious facts to me.
      And let’s not forget that time was of the essence too for Marissa and whoever was to accompany her. Rio isn’t right there for anybody travelling from Canada or Trinidad and Tobago. I would expect that Marissa’s ticket was bought before Geddert’s 5pm response.
      I do wonder what the first two reports said and the subsequent exchanges because the TTGF did not attempt to pull Thema following those.

    • somebody told me a long time ago .. Money talks and bullshit walks … Why believe anything Geddert or TTGF say … This whole sordid affair reeks of FIFA … From the minute the photo of Thema surfaced ….

    • Cheryl Gibson, you’re addressing a completely different issue from the one that my initial comment addressed.
      I don’t share your view on foreign based and foreign born athletes however I did have a problem with a picture that Marissa posted talking about her heart belonging to Canada. Most people here did not seem to share my view.
      In any case, can you address your issues with foreign born/foreign based athletes in a totally new comment thread. Just so that we don’t jumble the conversation and have the opportunity to fully vet all the issues that may arise from this situation. Thanks.

  39. The whole damn thing is about colours and entitlements … But is T&It’s reputation that is being sullied FIFA again by a different acronym. Somebody has a lot of money that they want to give Thema I hope the persons making the decisions have their own bank account and not expecting T&T to pay for their tata

  40. There’s something off about this. Knowing the fraught relationship between Thema and the TTGF and the high stakes involved why didn’t he give the details in his last report that he gave in the response to the TTGF pulling Thema? Then he turned off or was apart from his phone. Sounds irresponsible unless parts of the story still missing

    • Well for sure parts of the story are missing! On both sides. That I accept. That’s the case for most things anyway. The issue right now is was it unfair or not I think. In this case, unless other facts come to the fore. The decision is unfair for a lack of fair procedure in my eyes. And there is an looming improper motives issue in light of the manner of the decision and the surrounding facts

  41. This reeks of stink. Smdh!!!

  42. So, I have already indicated to her legal team, that I am ready to fund her, no matter the cost. This CANNOT be allowed to happen. #IforThema!

  43. Another group of useless people pretending to act in the best interest of our athletes. Why do we seem to have more than our fair share of these idiots??!!!!

  44. Is the TTGF becoming another WICB???

  45. You know I articulated this whole sordid affair a while back … Marisa did not make the Canadian team and she thinks she is entitled to be showcased at the Olympics because she came up with this move. So which country has the weakest representatives.. So knock out Thema even though she did better than her and is ranked higher as well. But there was furor and Thema has support .. So let us wait until the 11th hour and axe her and replace her with Marisa … Those people real stink and nasty..

  46. But wta!!! These people are beyond rediculous!!!

  47. Nah man. How could they dream to decide to remove her without first speaking with the coach. This screams of unfairness.

  48. We need a petition to tell Ministry of Sport to stop funding the TTGF. This is outrageous!

  49. But the coach’s report though…ah mean. I’m not sure how he can say it was misconstrued. He said he told her to pull out so how else is the federation supposed to look at it? And now she’s declared fit? I don’t get this entire bacchanal.

  50. Was waiting for something like this to happen. They were on a mission to send Dick regardless. She should take them to Court.

  51. Was waiting for something like this to happen. They were on a mission to send Dick regardless. She should take them to Court.

  52. Lasana Liburd I am so annoyed by this. Why are playing with this young woman’s future!

  53. Coach to blame. Reading his initial email would give any reasonable person pause.

    • If there is cause for pause, any ‘reasonable’ person would have seek clarification by communicating with Thema’s coach to assure understanding, setup a joint meeting and together decide next steps. Simple. Instead we have all this hoopla typical of T&T leaders… Always quick to show how is in charge and who had power.

    • If they had pause then TTGF should have called a meeting clarify and assure there was no misunderstanding. Then together with the coach and Thema make the decision to replace her or not. Their haste to replace gives cause for concern. TTGF decision is typical of leadership in T&T… purely substandard, ineffective and reeked with favoritism.

    • Nah man. How could they dream to decide to remove her without first speaking with the coach. This screams of unfairness.

    • A decision had to be made quickly to get the alternate to Brazil. As it is she’s going to get there with hours to spare. The alternate should have been there from the start, along with a TTGF representative to monitor the situation. I guess they couldn’t afford that.

    • It just seems that they were waiting in the wings to make that decision. It seems oppressive, like a tarantula brooding over its victim. The procedure was off. Even if they can rationalize the decision, all the facts surrounding ( from the start of saga to now) brings into question the TTGF’s motives.

    • The coach even asked to leave early!!!!

  54. Serious investigative journalism! Real good work.

  55. Here we go again. It’s what I have been afraid. Poor decision making, failure to engage Thema Williams and her coach in the process, failure to provide guidelines and set performance expectations, failure to objectively oversee Thema’s performance and what might be the worst factor… favoritism!

  56. There we go these stupid f***s

  57. i really need to keep myself out of this… why is there no mention of a doctor up to now. A Injury requires a doctor to declare her fit or unfit… what happened to that?

  58. Geddart now saying he exaggerated and she fine…

  59. Therefore when I said ‘podium was a disaster’, this is to be taken in the context of several athletes who performed on that day. Question, a) you connected in your email that disaster to her injury, even mentioned that you suggested to her to withdraw. b) if that was a exaggerated term, why using it in a mail to people that you know are looking for an excuse to replace her? Sorry, but that shoe seems to fit on your foot….

  60. This is getting muddier and muddier!!! A result of the stupid manner in which they handled the photos, I am sure. SMDH!!

  61. Not sure any adult in this situation is being completely honest about anything…