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‘They always wanted me out’ ...says Thema Williams on TTGF

Thursday, April 28, 2016
T&T gymnast Thema Williams with her attorneys Keith Scotland, left, and Dr Emir Crowne following a press conference at Scotland’s law chambers, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. Photo: SHIRLEY BAHADUR

National gymnast Thema Williams broke her silence on the T&T Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) yesterday, stating that the local gymnastics body always wanted her out of the Olympics, but her attorneys said that her Olympic dream is not over.

Addressing the media at a press conference at the Keith Scotland chambers in Port-of-Spain yesterday, Williams gave her thoughts on the TTGF.

Williams said the TTGF knew what they were doing for a long time. “It was not really at the last minute. They have been trying (to get me out). It was not something that was surprising to all those who have been around me and experiencing all the things they tried and all the attempts they made to stop me. I am not surprised that it has come to this.”

Williams was pulled out of the Rio Test Event on April 16 as the TTGF felt she was not physically fit to compete following a report from Williams’ coach John Geddert. Williams was replaced by Marisa Dick who flew from Canada where she is based, to Brazil. Dick created history by becoming the first T&T gymnast to qualify for the Olympics.

Williams’ participation at the Rio Test event was in doubt since qualifying for the event. After Williams finished ahead of Dick in the World Gymnastics Championships in October, Williams believes she should have been the automatic choice to represent T&T at the Test event. However, the TTGF announced that Williams and Dick will have to compete in two more events before one is chosen. After deliberation Williams was chosen for the Test event.

In February semi-nude photographs of Williams and Dick circulated on social media which forced the TTGF to take the matter to the Federation’s Disciplinary Committee. Williams’ attendance at the Test Event was then in doubt again, but after consultation the TTGF confirmed last month that Williams will be T&T’s representative at the Rio Test event.

Williams said how she found out she was replaced for the Test event. “On April 16th at 1.27 am Brazilian time an email was sent saying I will no longer be T&T’s representative at the Test event, unknowing to me of course. 

In light of how podium training went I thought to myself I have one more day to clean up and fix my routine to prepare myself for the competition on the 17th. When I woke up on the 16th I received a call from my mother stating that I was no longer the representative.”

Williams said she wanted to go to the Olympics since she was eight and the dream was taken away without her knowledge.

She stated that with the help from her team she has been dealing with the situation in a calm and humble manner.

“I would not say the flame is out really. I will still like to go to the Olympics that is still my goal. I am prepared to go back to Michigan and put in the work to go to the Olympics.”

Williams’ attorney Keith Scotland who sent an appeal to the TTGF in attempt to overturn the TTGF’s decision to replace his client said they have not gotten a response. “Miss Williams is and rightly aggrieved. So much so when that decision was taken we appealed that decision. To date we have not received the courtesy of an acknowledgement of that appeal.

“We were able to send a notice of an unresolved dispute to the federation. I can tell you that this morning (yesterday) we received a note from the TTGF’s attorneys of law headed by the esteemed Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj Senior Counsel. They have said they act on behalf of the T&T Gymnastics Federation and they have been in the process of taking advice and they are asking us to hold our hands.”

Scotland said they will give the TTGF only a short time because in this case time is against them. The TTOC has to make a final decision by May 9 on who will represent T&T at the Olympics.

Dr Emir Crowne, who is also representing Williams explained she can still compete in the Olympics. “There is a chance that Thema can still go to the Olympics. There is a committee called the Tripartite Olympic Commission. They deal with exceptions to the rule. But the deadline to file that application was January 15. But they do allow late applications in exceptional circumstances. I think it is safe to say this is nothing short of an exceptional situation. What we need is the TTOC to buy into it.”

“And if the Tripartite Commission says this does not qualify as an exceptional situation then we go to CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport). CAS deals with pretty much every sport in the world. CAS has exclusive jurisdiction of any dispute arising from or in connection with the Olympics. We can take the situation directly to CAS.”​​


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