THEMA WITHDRAWN

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It’s being called “an emergency decision due to injury,” – something refuted by her coach - but, for the bymoment, as far as the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) is concerned Thema Williams’ participation in the Aquece Rio Final Gymnastics Qualifier in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is off.

The major turn of events followed a TTGF release yesterday which announced that the 20-year-old has been withdrawn by her coach John Geddert due to injury.

However Geddert, in a report on local sports media website Wired 888.com last evening, refuted such claims and blamed the TTGF for apparently acting in haste.

The TTGF media release issued by assistant treasurer Donna Lee Shue, stated in part, “early (yesterday) morning, the (TTGF) made an emergency decision to pull Thema Williams from the test event in Rio due to an (ankle) injury. Williams will be replaced by alternate Marisa Dick, effective immediately.” This latest controversy comes a couple months after the TTGF reluctantly allowed Williams to participate in the Test Event, following the leaking of a topless photo by a member of the public.

There was conjecture even then that Dick would have replaced Williams then, but that decision was put in doubt when a revealing photo of Dick began surfacing online.

The media release quoted Geddert as saying, “Thema has been nursing an injured ankle and has limited all pounding and landings for over the past week. Unfortunately she fell six times out of three events on podium training and has since showed no signs of recovery. We are sincerely concerned for her health and cannot risk further injury.” The Canadian-born Dick is expected to replace Williams as the TT participant in the week-long event.

“We have confidence that Marisa will represent Trinidad and Tobago well on the international stage,” TTGF president David Marquez was quoted as saying in the media release. “While we are saddened, we wish Thema a speedy recovery and Marisa will do her best on such short notice?” Dick along with Williams, both represented Trinidad and Tobago at the World Championship in Scotland and both girls acquired the score to the Test Event.

“We wish Thema a speedy recovery and best of luck to Marisa,” the media release ended.

At the 2015 World Champs in Glasgow, Scotland, Williams placed 59th out of 192 entrants, while Dick finished 77th overall.

But Geddert, according to the Wired 868 website, revealed that some portions of his report were taken out of context.

“The doctor has cleared Thema to compete in the circumstance using her good judgement as the determining factor.” Geddert said. “I, as Thema’s coach, require that she continues to represent the country,” Last night, Williams’ legal team, headed by noted attorney, Keith Scotland, were filing an appeal against the TTGF, hoping to reinstate the former Tots and Tumblers gymnast by today.

The Grounds of Appeal stated that “the decision to ‘pull Thema from the test event’ is irrational, illegal and null and void”.

It noted, “this procedure is in breach of the TTGF constitution and of the generally recognised right of athletes to be heard, especially in matters of team selection and de-selection”, and “the decision taken by the TTGF to pull Ms Williams from the Test Event is arbitrary, capricious and wrong in law.” Williams, via her legal team, asked that the matter be heard by teleconference no later than 10 am today with a short decision rendered by noon with detailed reasons to follow in 14 days. She also asked that a sole arbitrator or sole mediator/arbitrator be appointed from the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, or the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC); and the right to seek costs, damages or any other relief as may available to her by law.

Williams’ godmother, local entertainer and actress Nikki Crosby, said during a telephone interview last evening, “(the TTGF) knew what they were doing. They were just pulling along Thema, her family and all her supporters. They were giving us the impression that everything was okay.” “I think they were just looking for the slightest excuse to dismiss this child,” Crosby added. “It is just about taking away a young athlete’s dream.

I’ve been passionate about it because I’ve seen the struggle, and this has not been an easy road, or a financially rewarding road.

“To know that some people on a board did not like how Trinidad and Tobago dealt with them is just ridiculous.

For me, all of them should be (dismissed).” Crosby emphasised the TTGF has shown clear bias regarding their decision in this ongoing saga.

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