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Wednesday 26 June 2019
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Gymnastics trial enters Day 2:Thema withdrawal was fair says TTGF trio

Thema Williams
Thema Williams

FORMER general secretary of the TT Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) Elicia Peters-Charles yesterday admitted to describing gymnast Thema Williams as “egotistical and self-centered” as she and other members of the executive discussed whether to pull her from a test event for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

Peters and two former executive members, former president David Marquez, and member Sarah Lambert testified at the trial of Williams’ multi-million- dollar claim against the federation.

Peter-Charles said although she used the descriptions of the gymnast, it was her personal opinion which would not have changed her colleagues’ votes.

In their testimony, the three insisted they acted fairly when they made the decision to withdraw Williams from a test event for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

Williams has sued the local body for $11.38 million compensation for what she says is the federation’s “harsh and oppressive” actions against her which shattered her dream of qualifying for the 2016 Olympic games in Brazil.

The trial of her claim is currently being heard by Justice Frank Seepersad in the Port of Spain High Court.

Williams, by virtue of her higher score at the World Championships in Glasgow, was given the nod over Marisa Dick to compete at the Olympic Test event – Aquece Final Gymnastics Qualifier – in April 2016.

She and her coach John Geddert were in Brazil preparing for the Olympic qualifier when the TTGF decided to replace her with alternate athlete Dick instead.

Williams claimed her coach, John Geddert, was informed by the federation that she was withdrawn because she was injured, a claim which she denies.

Alternate athlete Dick was flown in from Canada and eventually qualified to become the first person to represent TT in gymnastics at the Olympics.

On Monday, Williams denied being injured but admitted that she experienced “discomfort” in her left ankle. She said this was not unusual for elite athletes.

Marquez said yesterday, it was Geddert who raised the issue of her fitness to compete. He said in an e-mail, sent the day before the test event, Williams’ coach said she was suffering from discomfort in her ankle.

He said he only called Geddert after him and other executive members decided to replace Williams and that he was busy with the discussions on the issue to call the coach for more information on the athlete’s condition. The discussions by the executive took the form of phone calls.

Lambert was questioned about her analysis of Williams’ performance at a warm-up event after Geddert in his e-mail, described it as a “disaster.”

“I would say that that person was not ready as they could have been at that stage,” Lambert said.

Also testifying was massage therapist Nicole Fuentes who was questioned about Williams’ ankle issue.

She said the complaint made of discomfort was normal after lengthy travel. The federation is relying on Fuentes’ notes to justify pulling her from the test event.

“A flight could have that effect. I also had swollen feet from my flight.”

She also said she was upset at not being told by the executive of the decision to pull Williams.

“I was obviously upset. I ought to have known that some change was going to be made.”

Marquez returns to the witness box today when the trial continues.

Also expected to testify are former executive members Akil Wattley, Ricardo Lue Shue and his wife Donna Lue Shue.

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