We’re creeping up on a month since the day the T&T Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) decided to turn this country’s first-ever Olympics qualifier in that sport into a total international fiasco. Naturally, despite all the evidence to the contrary, there are those working overtime to either dismiss or excuse the situation, often with the help of rampant misinformation. Of course, the sheer volume of madness that has occurred over the past four weeks isn’t helping to clarify things.
Maybe it would be a good idea to take a stroll down memory lane (with lots of help from Wired868.com, which has been running the most comprehensive coverage of the bacchanal from day one).
First, a little housekeeping that will become relevant later on:
Per Wired868, Thema Wiliams and Marisa Dick were sent contracts prior to the October 2015 Glasgow World Championships that stated the following:
“The WAG gymnast who scores the highest all-around score at the World Gymnastics Championships in Glasgow 2015 will be the athlete selected by the TTGF Selection Committee to move forward to represent TTO at the Olympic Test Event in Rio, Brazil in April 2016 once her scores allow her selection by FIG to this event.”
At a later (as yet unspecified) date, a follow-up contract was sent which included the following oath:
“I am a representative of TTFG and must conduct myself in a manner that upholds the name, reputation and goodwill of TTGF… As such, my conduct publicly known and not publicly known must not reflect poorly upon or bring discredit to TTGF, its other athletes, its coaches or its events and programs. My conduct extends beyond actions on the field of play, including but not limited to actions/posting/images disseminated in the public domain.” (via Wired868)
Finally, Williams’ contract reportedly stipulated that she could only be pulled from the Olympic Test event by the “head of delegation in consultation with my coach and relevant medical personnel.”
Now to the dates (brace yourself):
Friday, October 3rd, 2015 – Thema Williams and Marisa Dick compete at the WAG Qualification session in Glasgow, with Williams finishing a national record-setting 59th and Dick finishing 77th out of 192. While the TTGF announces that T&T had earned a spot at the Olympic Games Test Event in Rio, it fails to announce that, having finished before Dick, Williams would be representing the nation at said event. Instead, the statement curiously refers to “two other prestigous [sic] elite events” they’ll be competing in ahead of the Test Event.
Monday, November 9th, 2015 – Hannifer Dick (mother of Marisa Dick) reportedly emails the TTGF declaring that, despite the aforementioned contracts, her daughter is heartbroken at the news that she didn’t qualify to represent T&T and feels that no one is fighting for her. She also goes as far as to suggest new qualification criteria and reveals that her daughter was injured while competing in Glasgow.
Wednesday, January 13th, 2016 – Edmonton’s CBC News publishes an article claiming that Dick is still competing for the right to represent T&T at the qualifiers in Rio. Those already following the story are understandably stumped.
Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016 – Someone calling themselves Georgette Heinz emails a topless Instagram photo of Williams to the TTGF and the media, describing it as “disgraceful” and demanding action against the gymnast. Though Heinz’ identity cannot not be verified, the TTGF announces a meeting with a decision to follow. Williams, meanwhile, explains that she posted the photo to her private account one year earlier and removed it within a day at her coach’s urging.
Thursday, February 25th, 2016 – The TTGF and media receive a topless Snapchat photo of Dick (supposedly taken a month earlier) from an individual identifying themselves as Kamara Heinz. As a result, the TTGF decides to refer both athletes to the disciplinary committee. A second Instagram photo is also released, raising questions about Dick’s loyalty to the country she plans to represent.
Monday, February 29th, 2016 – Amid delays in sourcing a lawyer for the disciplinary hearing, the TTGF declares that both athletes have breached their contracts and it is well within its rights to pull them out of competition.
Thursday, March 10th, 2016 -Sunday, March 13th, 2016 – John Geddert (Williams’ coach) goes back and forth with the TTGF via email over their decision to ultimately deny her the chance to participate in a Level 10 meet which was initially approved by the TTGF’s Women Artistic Gymnastics (WAG) committee. Geddert accuses the TTGF of standing in the way of Williams’ preparations for Rio.
Tuesday, March 15th, 2016 – The TTGF officially announces Williams as T&T’s representative in Rio, without officially announcing the resolution of the disciplinary matter. It is now almost three weeks after the matter was originally raised.
Wednesday, April 13th, 2016 – Williams arrives in Brazil with plans to begin training the following day and compete in the final Olympic Gymnastics Qualifier that Sunday (April 17th).
Friday, April 15th, 2016 – Coach Geddert sends an informal email report to the TTGF, stating (among other things) the following:
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…
Saturday, April 16th, 2016 – After expending a questionable amount of effort to reach Geddert, the TTGF surprises absolutely no one by suddenly announcing (on their Facebook page) that they’d pulled Williams from the competition due to concerns about her health (citing Geddert’s email). Geddert responds with another email clarifying his original report and denying that Williams was injured. He also accuses the TTGF of violating its contract, intentionally misinterpreting his report and endangering Dick by asking her to make the last-minute trip to replace Williams. Williams’ attorneys launch a last-ditch attempt to regain her position.
Sunday, April 17th, 2016 – Following an almost miraculous dash to Brazil which subsequently raised questions about when she was notified and accredited, Dick competes in Williams’ stead (coached by TTGF second vice president Ricardo Lue Shue), securing T&T’s sole gymnastics spot in the Rio 2016 Olympics. Meanwhile, T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) President Brian Lewis signals (via Twitter) that all hope may not be lost, as the final say on Olympic representation rests with his organisation.
Monday, April 18th, 2016 – The TTGF contradicts Lewis, declaring that – as the athlete who secured T&T’s spot in Rio – Dick is the only one eligible to represent the nation at the Olympics.This news arguably leaves the TTOC in the position of deciding whether to send Dick or no athlete at all to the Olympics.
Wednesday, April 20th, 2016 – Williams returns home to a hero’s welcome.
Thursday, April 21st, 2016 – The TTGF holds a press conference to address the controversy, during which it reveals that Nicole Fuentes served as Head of the Delegation for the Rio qualifiers and admits that Fuentes wasn’t properly consulted, as is required by the athlete’s contract. (The TTGF and Fuentes herself later claimed that TTGF president David Marquez actually served as HOD from T&T.)
Friday, April 22nd, 2016 – The Sports Company of T&T (SPORTT) requests a detailed financial report from the TTGF explaining how funds were used for the Rio Test event by May 3.
Sunday, April 24th, 2016 – Williams’ attorneys serve the TTGF with legal papers indicating their intention to seek “damages, declarations and relief for all of the wrongdoings”, alleging bias in its handling of the Rio qualifiers.
Wednesday, April 27th, 2016 – Williams and her attorneys hold a press conference where they reveal plans to ask the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) to refer the case to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Tripartite Commission. They also mention the possibility of pursuing the matter through the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Friday, April 29th, 2016 – Following numerous queries about the timeline of the TTGF’s replacement of Williams with Dick, the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) responds by declaring Dick to be T&T’s legitimate representative while refusing to actually clarify the timeline that would support the declaration.
Saturday, April 3oth, 2016 – News breaks that Williams’ case may not qualify to be heard by the IOC’s Tripartite Commission after all.
Monday, May 2nd, 2016 – Influenced by the FIG’s letter, the TTOC announces that Dick will indeed be T&T’s gymnastics representative at the 2016 Olympic games. TTOC President Brian Lewis follows that announcement by confirming (on Twitter) the body’s intention of cooperating with the independent tribunal’s investigation of the TTGF’s actions.
Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016 – SPORTT receives the requested TTGF financial report.
Wednesday, May 4th, 2016 – Wired 868 notices that TTGF second vice president Ricardo Lue Shue’s name had been deleted from Dick’s FIG profile, where he had been listed as assistant coach. An ex-TTGF official subsequently takes responsibility for removing it, without explaining why his name was the only one to be updated.
Wednesday, May 11th, 2016 – A mysterious female makes a profane and threatening phone call to Abeo Jackson, one of the more prominent individuals working to hold the TTOC accountable. Research reveals that the number is reportedly registered to Janine Morton, daughter of TTGF Assistant Treasurer Donna Lue Shue. Morton subsequently posts statements on Jackson’s Facebook page appearing to clarify the statements made in the call.
There you have it. Quite the roller-coaster ride.
Personally, I’m hoping our local theatre fraternity has a field day dramatising this entire thing (it wouldn’t require much embellishment at all), but I expect they’re waiting to see what the next twist is going to be. At the rate the TTGF is going, there’s always another one right around the corner.
As for the rest of us… we’re waiting, too. We’re waiting for the TTOC to keep its word and hold the TTGF responsible for tarnishing what should be one of this nation’s proudest sporting moments.
On the bright side, it would appear that our famed ten days’ mentality has finally expired. Look how much we remember!
And we have no plans to forget.