Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Marisa Dick will fly to Brazil tomorrow morning and represent her country on the same day, as the local gymnastics furore apparently came to a stunning conclusion today.
Dick, who was the alternate athlete for the 2016 Rio Olympic Test event, replaces Thema Williams, who, according to the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF), allegedly failed to recover from a niggling ankle injury.
However, Williams’ camp has disputed any suggestion that the former Tots and Tumblers gymnast and St Joseph’s Convent (Port of Spain) student is injured. And they criticised the TTGF for allegedly failing to inform either Williams or her coach, John Geddert, that they were striking her off the list to compete at the event on April 17.
Williams was apparently informed by her mother, Helen Adams, that she would not compete at the Olympic qualifier, after the TTGF made a public statement this morning.
The TTGF claimed that the decision was made based on a report by Geddert.
“Early this morning, The Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation made an emergency decision to pull Ms Thema Williams from the Test event in Rio due to an injury,” stated the TTGF. “Williams will be replaced by alternate Marisa Dick, effective immediately. According to coach John Geddert: ‘Thema has been nursing an injured ankle and has limited all pounding and landings for over the past week’.
“He went on to state that unfortunately she fell six times out of three events on podium training and has since showed no signs of recovery.
“We are sincerely concerned for her health and cannot risk further injury.”
A gymnastics official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed that Geddert revealed the former Tots and Tumblers athlete and St Joseph’s Convent (Port of Spain) student had tried unsuccessfully to shake of an injury.
“(Geddert) sent three reports and the last was the most glaring one,” said the official. “It made mention that she had an injury for the last week and he advised her to withdraw (from the Olympic event). And she told him she would be okay.
“But she got to Rio and it got progressively worse. She fell six times in three events yesterday.”
However, Geddert, who is the United States gymnastics coach and led his nation to gold at the London 2012 Olympics, apparently did not recommend that Williams be withdrawn.
“He said he would train her lightly today and hope for the best tomorrow,” said the official. “He made examples from other federations faced with similar situations… He wanted to swing her through.”
The TTGF decided to send a presumably fully fit Dick instead, even though the Canada-born gymnast will apparently arrive in Rio at 9.30 am on April 17 before participating at 4.30 pm on the same day.
However, Williams’ team disputed claims that their athlete is injured.
“Thema had a bad day at podium training yesterday (and) John Geddert did a report and sent it to members of TTGF,” said the source. “(…) Thema had a minor issue with landing tumbles—but got a clean bill of health from a Brazilian doctor this morning.
“She is fully fit.”
Wired868 was sent what appeared to be the email from Geddert to the TTGF.
On day three, the message from Geddert’s email address read: “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.”
The deadline for Williams to protest the TTGF’s decision to remove her was given at 4 pm (5 pm Rio time) and it passed without any legal manoeuvring. However, Wired868 was informed that her legal team is still working on the matter.
Williams is represented by attorney Keith Scotland, who has also consulted with Canada-based attorney Emir Crowne on the matter.
Already, the social media has exploded over the issue with general fury directed towards the local gymnastics body, although Dick also received support by several commentators who felt she was more than good enough to represent Trinidad and Tobago.
Local media personality, Sophie Wight, said that she phoned TTGF assistant treasurer Donna Lee Shue to share her outrage.
“I told her that ‘I want you to know how disgusted hundreds of us are’,” said Wight.
Lue Shue, whose husband Ricardo Lue Shue is the TTGF’s second vice-president and will act as Dick’s coach in Brazil, allegedly dismissed her complaint.
“She said: ‘I don’t care, I didn’t kill nobody’,” Wight told Wired868. “And then she hung up on me.”
The Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation comprises of president David Marquez, general secretary Elicia Peters-Charles, first vice president Akil Wattley, second vice president, Ricardo Lue Shue—who was president of the body from 2008 to 2015 and will serve as Dick’s coach in Brazil—treasurer Susanne Babooram and Lue Shue’s wife, Donna Lue Shue, who serves as assistant treasurer.
Williams has not publicly commented on the furore so far.
Her last post on her Twitter page was made yesterday and it read: “Who Jah bless, no man curse.”
The page was decorated with a black backdrop, which included the words “Jah put me here” printed in bold white letters.
Editor’s Note: Click HERE for more background information on Thema Williams’ behind-the-scenes battle for Rio.