What a “Dick Move”.
That’s what the whole world will be associating with T&T gymnastics this year as our representative does her routine on behalf of the twin isle republic. This is the case as the TT Gymnastics Federation has apparently catapulted Marisa Dick over Thema Williams to be the country’s lead gymnast just in time for Rio. Marisa has already etched her name into history books by creating a signature move for mounting the Balance Beams. The move which looks very painful to the male members of the gymnastics fraternity and has ironically, unfortunately or blissfully, depending on your point of view, has taken her last name for all eternity and is internationally known as “The Dick Move”.
This is totally separate, of course, to the bachanaal that has engulfed the sport over the past year as we would not want to blame 18 year old Dick and 20 year old Williams for what is clearly a battle between the two for one Olympic place that has moved out of the gym. No, this bacchanal is placed squarely at the feet of the administration in charge of the sport. At the end of the most recent brouhaha, the TTGF, after mounting public pressure issued a statement that Thema would be the country’s representative, provided that she can prove her fitness. This latter part was striking strange for me thus I was looking for the sting in the tail. I mean, how often do you hear the TTFA say “We select the following players for a game in a month’s time PROVIDED THEY ARE FIT”. The latter part is understood in sport. Whenever it’s explicitly said, especially when the athlete is fit at the point of the release...something is up. Trust me on that. Thus, it inevitably came at the literal 11th hour.
With an athlete practicing for what would probably be the most important event of their life on location all week, how can a decision be made within 5 hours to replace them (based on a timeline of emails presented in local media) with someone about 9 hours flying time away? How can her alternate, Marisa, be in any frame of mind and body to perform at her best at the event? It is unfair to both athletes, especially as the fitness of Thema was then clarified in subsequent email which would have saved the TTGF some seriously needed funding. ( I assume that all sports in T&T are underfunded based on historical evidence).
My real question is: why? Ever since Thema Williams performed at the Test Event in Glasgow and earned a spot at the Olympics, there has been mixed signals from the TTGF whenever her name came up as the country’s FIRST representative in the sport at the Olympic level. For some reason, the name Marisa Dick would always be mentioned as an alternate. In addition, it was the TTOC who eventually confirmed Thema as the representative based on the rules, in the first place. This was supposed to be the greatest moment in sporting history of gymnastics for T&T. Instead, it became muddied and source of muted celebration for some reason.
I am not involved in the inner workings of gymnastics. However, there is a clear reason across sports why administrators are not involved in selection of athletes. The WICB and TTFA’s ‘rumoured yet obvious blacklists” of players are the instances we can best relate to. In both cases, it resulted in poor results in competition. Administrators always seem to have an agenda when making selections, thus the need for the separation of powers to make the selection seem fair. The Selectors for the WICB and the Coach for the TTFA are supposedly who provide that buffer for our two main sports. The TTGF’s avenue was the competition rules which would have indicated Thema to be the clear selection due to her placing of 59th as compared to 77th by Dick at the World Gymnastics Championships.
However, there seemed to always be the shadow of Marisa hanging over Thema’s head throughout her preparation. One has to wonder if there is no one remotely close to Christopher George in Judo? Why are we not hearing about that person who could possibly challenge him for a spot, despite him being the clear favourite based on his results.
Taking all political or personal bias out of the equation one would have to think that the only rational reason for the TTGF to still have Marisa on the radar is because they consider her the better athlete and that Thema’s win was a “flukes”. Let’s get real though. No offence to either girl (although I know people will still take offence) we’re still talking about better between 59th and 77th. Pushing for one athlete over the other is not going to take us to the podium in Rio. From a federation standpoint, what is the benefit? Why add to the obvious conflagration by pouring fuel to the competition between the two? Is the bad blood created in the nation toward the sport worth whatever benefit is being reaped here? I understand the desire and competitive nature of the individual in working so hard to become an Olympian but I really cannot see why the TTGF would want to invite such “scandal” in what should be their moment of triumph for potential minimal benefits.
If there was no prior incident since Glasgow last year wherein the public has been led to believe there was a campaign against Thema representing T&T, maybe some people would buy the idea that there is fear that we could have no representative in Rio based on a purported injury. The lack of public support from the TTGF that has been documented, into the “skin” photos that were prude enough to be shown in our daily papers has created the lack of trust in the federation and created the Team Thema movement. This is beause the appearance has been created of an agenda against Thema Williams. On the flipside, I am not seeing where Marisa Dick has had any opportunity to feel slighted but rather has been given opportunities where none should realistically existed, thus the appearance of bias.
In the end, we are talking about an 18 year old and a 20 year old. Yes, I know gymnasts peak in their teens, but is it that both will never have an opportunity at 22 and 24 to reach the levels they are at now? Why the fight down? Does the TTGF have no hope in their product that this would herald an era of continued qualification for T&T? Or is it that we are just blessed with two special individuals at the same time? If so, both should be treasured for what they are giving to the sport and to the country and not be subject to the media circus that has erupted throughout the process.
Even if Thema’s lawyers are able to re-insitate her in time to compete today this ordeal would have taken its toll. Even if Marisa is able to fly in and acclimatise from wherever she was in the world waiting (hoping?)for the call to save the country’s Olympic chances, I can’t imagine her being able to compete at her peak after jumping off a plane or bus or what have you.
Either way, it is just another example of athletes not being able to solely concentrate on their performance due to the administrative factors that surround them. Be it lack of pay, lack of facilities, lack of equipment, travel arrangements, hotel arrangements or lack of consideration and support by the body in charge of them the story remains the same in nearly all sports locally: any success achieved, is despite something or other rather than because of something put in place. In that regard, the TTGF stands in good company.