Home / Rio 2016 / Thema’d have qualified on her worst day! Geddert blasts TTGF’s ‘unthinkable’ act

Thema’d have qualified on her worst day! Geddert blasts TTGF’s ‘unthinkable’ act

“It was the most unthinkable thing any organisation could do to an athlete who had invested so much time…”

United States international gymnastics coach John Geddert blasted the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF), during an interview with I95.5 FM this evening, for destroying the Rio 2016 Olympic dreams of local gymnast, Thema Williams.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams (centre) is serenaded by 2016 International Soca Monarch Aaron “Voice” St Louis at the Piarco International Airport on her return from Rio on Wednesday 20 April 2016. Looking on are Williams' parents, Leon Williams (right) and Helen Adams (second from left). (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams (centre) is serenaded by 2016 International Soca Monarch Aaron “Voice” St Louis at the Piarco International Airport on her return from Rio on Wednesday 20 April 2016.
Looking on are Williams’ parents, Leon Williams (right) and Helen Adams (second from left).
(Courtesy Wired868)

The live interview was conducted at the same time that the TTGF held its own press conference at the Chamber of Commerce in Westmoorings—the latter organisation scheduled its meeting a day after the radio station.

Williams was replaced by her alternate, Marisa Dick, on Friday night although TTGF president David Marquez only informed Geddert of the decision on Saturday morning. The gymnastics board never officially communicated its decision to Williams.

Geddert, whose report on Williams’ poor training performance on Friday and sore ankle was cited as the TTGF’s reason for replacing the athlete, told I.95.5 FM that he regrets the wording of his email.

“I regret sending them a report that was incomplete,” said Geddert, “and I regret sending them the ammunition to make the decision that I think they always wanted to make…

“Thema had a disappointing practice. Athletes have disappointing practises all the time…

“You are supposed to give them an honest report of what is going on.… Now, in hindsight, it obviously should not have been.”

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 Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs)
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 Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs)

Geddert justified his claim of TTGF bias against Williams by pointing out the board’s efforts to change the rules when his athlete initially qualified for the Rio Test event as well as its controversial decision to sanction her for a topless photo.

“They wanted to scratch her immediately (over the photograph) and then when one came out with Marisa the whole thing was dropped,” said Geddert. “I have dealt with countless associations over the years and I have never had to deal with so much drama as I’ve had in this two year period—ever.”

Geddert reiterated that Marquez did not make any meaningful effort to reach him, which was “unthinkable” for: “a decision of this magnitude with all that has been invested.”

Williams qualified for the Rio Test event by placing 59th at the Glasgow 2015 World Championships, which was 19 places higher than Dick.

However, Dick finished 55th of 61 participants in Rio to complete the job and secure a historic position at the Olympics for local gymnastics.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Marisa Dick performs at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games. Dick was born in Canada to a Trinidadian mother, Hannifer. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Marisa Dick performs at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.
Dick was born in Canada to a Trinidadian mother, Hannifer.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Geddert insisted that Williams would have breezed through the Test event on April 17. Asked specifically about Dick’s chances of medalling, the coach who led the United States to gold at the London 2012 Olympics said the Canada-born gymnast had “zero chance.”

“Thema on her worst day would have easily met the minimum score that ended up qualifying,” said Geddert, “and she was in no way primed to make her worst performance. We were pacing our stallion…

“(Dick) is a terrific young lady. She is not at fault. She didn’t make any decisions (although) she may have benefitted from some decisions.

“(But) the ability to run, jump, dance… Thema is a far superior athlete and she showed it at the World Championships.”

Geddert explained that he left Rio on Saturday night to attend to a family emergency—believed to be a funeral—because he felt Williams’ legal appeals were doomed to fail.

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)

“Once we were within the 24 hour window, the game was over,” said Geddert. “There was no ability to appeal. We were will within that (24 hour period) when I got on a plane…

“She was there with her team manager (Nicole Fuentes) and she wanted to stay and she wasn’t coming home with me (to the United States). The game was over.”

Geddert described Williams as a wonderful role model for young athletes and was convinced that she would recover from her ill-fated attempt to get to the Olympics.

“She is a perfect role model for young athletes,” said the gymnastics coach. “She is smart, articulate, beautifully-spoken… I know Thema will land on her feet.

“She is a go-getter. As devastating as this may be, she is going to be fine.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams (right) is welcomed home from Rio by her godmother and entertainer Nikki Crosby at the Piarco International Airport on Wednesday 20 April 2016. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams (right) is welcomed home from Rio by her godmother and entertainer Nikki Crosby at the Piarco International Airport on Wednesday 20 April 2016.
(Courtesy Wired868)

AboutLasana 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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187 comments

  1. We pay lip service to our athletes. Governing boards become petty tyrannical kingdoms and piggy banks for those in charge.

  2. TTGF’s could have made a Better Decision. Judging from how they Judged Thema I am saying they all look Bias not even Qualified for being on the TTGF Board. This Incredible Injustice will give her more support from the people of Trinidad.

  3. Trinis are in the habit of “cutting off the nose to spite the face” all the time!!

  4. Watch some of her floor moves..she would of done greatttt

  5. The following questions should be asked of the TTGF (1) When was the ticket purchase for Ms. Dick travel to Brazil. (2) When did ms. Dick get her Yellow Fever Shot because this is a most to travel to Brazil. (3) Prove of the travel itinerary for the Ms. Dick and company.

  6. Yup. But bad breed ppl doh noh nutten abt accountability……..

  7. It is a petty decisions like this being made and accepted…we move on in life like nothing. Decisions should have consecuences an those who took it must face it, life of a gymnast is up to 19 years old, after that you become a physical educator, ironic those who take it have no clue to be an athlete of olimpic level.

  8. This was truly a hard blow, to thema…imagine throwing you out to bring in someone who is not even from your country. …racism is an ugly act…

  9. Marisa Dick is a born Canadian she should not represent us,I don’t have anything against her,but fair is fair she is not a Trinidadian only one who is born here is so.

    • As much as we feel angered by the way Thema has been treated ,let’s not confuse issues . Marisa Dick has citizenship by right of decent .By your reasoning someone who arrives in Trinidad as a baby and lives here for 50 years is still not a Trinidadian even if both parents are Trinidadian.Don’t forget Chris Birchall had never been to Trinidad before being selected to play for the Soca Warriors ( his mother was a Trini) and his goal against Bahrain was vital in getting us to the 2006 World Cup.My main reservation with Miss Dick is that she is only using us to get to the Olympics and nothing more.

    • U jackass who is Chris berchell,who help t an t qualify for the work cup

    • Mohan Persad ,the 2006 WC in Germany .Your ignorance of common knowledge explains your need to resort to calling someone a Jack Ass . If you are able too you can Google facts nowadays you know.

    • You may not be aware of the rules for citizenship.

      As others have noted, should you have the good fortune to travel outside the country, and happen to have a child while abroad, your child will still be eligible for T&T citizenship. You will note that the US senator Ted Cruz, while born in Canada, meets the necessary criteria to run for US president, because he was born a citizen by descent. Just like Ms. Dick.

      Trinidad benefits by having many of its citizens abroad, enjoying facilities and training that is truly world class, yet coming home to compete for their country of choice.

      It may be true that bias played a role in the selection process – I cannot speak to the internal state of the selection committee. However, nationality is a legal matter, and most certainly Marissa is a citizen.

  10. I guess she has the wrong color… But this to shall pass she’ll always be blessed

  11. Geddert said when speaking of international standard practices in gymnastics for coaches reports: “You are supposed to give them an honest report of what is going on.… Now, in hindsight, it obviously should not have been.”
    This does not apply to Trinidad, bai.

  12. I agree!, she should have been allowed to compete. But they were scared she could have placed above Marisa. So she was BLOCKED !

  13. So glad this man is not keeping quiet

    • He should have known that there was opposition to Thema from some of the board and been clearer in his last report on her condition .As appalling as the boards actions were you must admit that he was playing right into the boards hands.

    • In the interview he admits his report was poorly worded and incomplete

    • Well that good for you if he admits to it.

    • On his defence, poorly worded and incomplete is not something you do not expect to be used at the Nth hour (bear in mind the day before the competition). I think he is trying to take responsibility for something he probably never had to think about, like how people always blame themselves after a tragic accident. They literally singled out 2 sentences in his email, had he extrapolated they may have very well still extracted only those 2 sentences anyway. The board is 100% responsible for what they did, I am really curious as to why they are so intent to ruin Thema’s career.

    • Falina thanks for that most intelligent insight! People like Paul are not able to really see what’s going on.

  14. There is no good result from this mess.

  15. Interview with Coach Geddert being replayed on I955fm right now!!

  16. I give the Coach a pass here and do not think he is party to plot to remove Thema. However, he was naive to the level of treachery and deceit within the TTGF. He let his guard down by reporting honestly because he could not in his multiple decades in gymnastics imagine that the TTGF would remove Thema who was in Brazil without proper protocol and fly Marisa to Brazil within 24 hours. As an experienced coach/competitor he had adjusted his mind and operational protocol to getting Thema qualified. In his mind, he was already expanding his Olympic legacy by winning Gold with USA to bringing a small nation athlete to possibly medal. He had every professional and economic incentive to see Thema through. After the treachery, knowing the sport he recognized that Thema would not win an appeal based on the timing of her withdrawal. I can imagine this man saying..WTF; I am out of here as I have some personal problems back home.

    Naturally, I do not know the man but I do know that he made some assumptions about the character and professionalism of the TTGF that did not serve Thema. Reading his email to the TTGF, you can feel his relaxed tone and excited, little did he know that a tiger was waiting to ponce.

  17. Everyone knew this all along. The coach never indicated that she cant compete. So why the haste?

  18. May God keep blessssssssong her cause she’s great at what she does best

  19. he said he asked her if she was able to go through with it and she told him yes. so why did he send that report. some how I kept suspecting that coach from day one. when I read his report. he get paid off. trying to pull himself out

  20. And I think he will regret it for the rest of his life

  21. I dont think he was directly involved in any plot to sabotage his athlete. I do believe that he failed to properly serve her in light of all his doubts about the Federation He erred greatly in sending such an email.