The 2016 Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) National Championship is in doubt after the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT) declined their request for funding.
The TTGF requested TT$118,000 from SPORTT but was rejected for a variety of reasons, including late application, low number of participants and failure to submit audited reports for 2012, 2013 and 2014.
For the second successive year, the TTGF event faced a boycott with over 60 percent of local competitive gymnastics clubs choosing to snub the event.
Only four clubs and roughly 75 local gymnasts—another 24 Curaçao nationals promised to attend—are carded to compete in the TTGF competition on June 11. While, on June 19 and 20, the seven boycotting clubs will hold their own Friends of Gymnastics competition at the Woodbrook Youth Facility and expect to have over 200 gymnasts.
SPORTT interim CEO Adrian Raymond suggested that the TTGF needs to get its house in order.
“This is the second championships in a row that they can only get four clubs there, so something is not quite right,” Raymond told Wired868. “The NAAA are having their championships and they approached us for a venue and technical support but not money. And 90 percent of their clubs are taking part with well over 550 nationals competing…
“There must be that level of subscription from your own community otherwise something is wrong. Every NGB (National Governing Body) has its issues but you go to swimming or athletics and over 90 percent of their clubs are participating.
“It is mind-blowing that they don’t want to address those sort of issues.”
The TTGF, which is headed by president David Marquez, has been thrust into the national spotlight recently for all the wrong reasons, after repeated clashes with its executive and 20-year-old national gymnast Thema Williams, who was controversially deselected from the Rio 2016 Olympic Test Event in April.
At present, Williams is suing TTGF president Marquez, first vice-president Akil Wattley, second vice-president Ricardo Lue Shue and assistant treasurer Donna Lee Shue for over TT$11 million for alleged bias, malice and discriminatory treatment.
However, the problems within the gymnastics fraternity run deeper than its stance on the infamous Marisa Dick/Thema Williams dilemma.
Yesterday, SPORTT’s decision earned the ire of at least one radio talk show host, due to an error by the State board.
SPORTT executive manager Anthony Creed’s email to the TTGF, which relayed its decision, was copied to Williams’ American coach, John Geddert.
Raymond insisted that was an inadvertent error, as Creed supposedly copied and pasted from a gymnastics mailing list used during the Rio Test Event, which included Geddert.
“It was a genuine error on his part, he has no affiliation with John Geddert,” said Raymond. “[Geddert] was on an email list because there were back and forth for the Rio Test Event. And rather than typing out all the emails, he copied and pasted and inadvertently copied the man in error.
“There is an attempt now to make that error seem as something clandestine to detract from important issues that need to be addressed. There was no effort from the TTGF to meet with the Sport Company [after our decision].
“But instead, they chose to speak to a radio talk show host, whereas we didn’t want to ventilate this in the public.”
Raymond claimed SPORTT did not arrive at a decision easily and was not picking on gymnastics. And he urged the TTGF—which allegedly sent its request for funding two weeks before its competition rather than the stipulated six weeks—to pull its socks up.
“We had a procurement workshop the other day and every NGB but one came,” said Raymond. “There will be proclamation of the procurement act soon, so we brought in all the stakeholders who have to now get an understanding of the policy…
“Every single NGB sent a representative, except gymnastics.”
It is uncertain whether the TTGF will go on with its National Championship without SPORTT’s assistance. Wired868 tried unsuccessfully to reach TTGF general secretary Elicia Peters-Charles for comment.
“It is not necessarily about gymnastics,” said Raymond, when asked whether other NGBs could face the same treatment. “It is something that will have to be reviewed across the board… We told the Amateur Swimming Association that we can only support ‘A’ standard swimmers and not ‘B’ standard anymore [for international tournaments]; and we will reimburse ‘B’ standard if they medal.
“And ASATT understand that and their last tournament was so competitive because coaches and swimmers understood that. Time and situation changes and you have to make those adjustments.
“At no time would you want athletes to struggle (…) but you have to make decisions at a certain point of time according to the variables.”