15-y-o to represent Ja at global gymnastics champs

BY PAUL BURROWES Observer writer

Tuesday, August 30, 2011    

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FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD United States-based Level 10 gymnas, Toni-Ann Williams will represent Jamaica at the 43rd Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Tokyo, Japan, October 8-16.

With the way open for three Jamaicans, the Jamaica Amateur Gymnastics Association (JAGA), led by upbeat president Collette Barham, will also add Jaida Lawrence, who along with Williams, trains at the Mladen Stefanov-coached United Gymnastix in Maryland.

Williams and coach Stefanov, an Olympic gymnast who represented Bulgaria at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, were presented at a press conference held Saturday at the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA).

Ranked as a one of the top 30 gymnasts in the United States, Williams says she hopes her participation will inspire other gymnasts living in Jamaica, the states and elsewhere to represent Jamaica and qualify for the Olympic Games.

A robust, five-foot one-inch athlete, Williams added: "I want to show that gymnastics is not only about running, flipping and recreation. You can actually go somewhere with it and be part of the international world."

"When I was younger, I was 'hyper' and gymnastics was a way to keep me occupied," she added.

Training for 10 years and currently at 25 hours a week, Williams showed her worth at the Junior Olympic National Championships earlier this year when she won on the beam, was second on the floor and third all-around.

Though now a Maryland State, Regional and US Junior Olympic National team member, Williams allegiance to Jamaica -- birthplace of her parents -- means she will have to sever ties with the American association.

Also at the press conference was Williams' sister Maya, who is three years younger, and a Level Nine gymnast, she has hopes to represent Jamaica when she is older.

A student at Roland Park Country School, the elder Williams hopes to go to college to pursue studies in the medical field.

Later on Saturday at the association's Annette Crescent's Gym, Toni-Ann and sister Maya, guided by coach Stefanov, put on a display of gymnastics skills, demonstrating the competence levels of the girls.

JAGA president Barham expressed her happiness in bringing the girls to Jamaica. "To see what the possibilities are, what we are capable of doing in gymnastics and we can do it just as much as track and field. In gymnastics all you need to do is to run and jump and we have that in our genes," she said.





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