Historic bow!

Artistic gymnasts qualify for 2019 Pan Am Games in Peru

Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

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JAMAICA'S artistic gymnastics prowess will be paraded at a Pan American Games for the first time in its history, as the country secured spots to the event to be staged in Lima, Peru, next year.

The four artistic gymnasts selected to represent the country next year — Reiss Beckford, Stephen Lewis, Danusia Francis and Mackenzie Robinson — were a part of a seven-member team that was on show at the recently concluded senior Pan American Championships qualifier in Lima.

Caleb Faulkner and local-based gymnast Nicholas Tai were the other members of the men's team that produced creditable performances along with Kiara Richmond, the other female member.

Olympian Toni-Ann Williams and sister Maya Williams were also listed as part of what was initially a nine-member unit, but were both ruled out with injuries.

However, Toni-Ann, who had only recently recovered from an injury when she suffered a dislocated elbow during her preparation for the qualifiers, was on hand in Peru to offer morale support to her teammates.

The presence of the 22-year-old American-based artistic gymnast added impetus to the confidence level of her teammates, particularly for young Canadian-based Robinson and Richmond, who are both still relatively newcomers to the senior ranks.

It was the first time Jamaica fielded two full senior teams at the qualifiers, and their hunt for qualification to the 28th Pan American Games to be hosted in the capital of the South American nation was rewarding.

Nicole Grant-Brown, president of the National Gymnastics Federation, was elated by the prospects.

“The Pan Am Championships was a success for Jamaica; we are very excited that the teams competed well to qualify with four spots for Jamaica to the Pan Am Games in 2019.

“We are indeed grateful to both male and female teams for their dedication and hard work and are very elated with their achievements, as this is a tremendous accomplishment which will definitely show that Jamaica gymnastics is growing,” Grant-Brown told the Jamaica Observer.

English-based Beckford was the highest-placed Jamaican on the men's side, tallying an all-around score of 78.466 for 13th overall, which earned the country two spots.

Based on the rules, teams which qualified first to eighth were allocated five spots, while those finishing between ninth and 13th were allocated two individual spots in accordance with team ranking in qualifications.

Beckford's breakdown on the six pieces of apparatus was 12.667 on floor, 12.533 on pommel horse, 13.567 on rings, 14.133 on vault, 12.933 on parallel bars, and 12.633 on horizontal bar.

Lewis, who was the next best-placed male with 72.301 for 28th overall, was selected to fill the other individual spot. His breakdown was 12.967, 9.833, 12.067, 14.267, 11.500 and 11.667, respectively.

Meanwhile, English-based Francis, 24, who was making a return to the national team since the 2015 World Championships in Scotland, was the best-placed female at 12th all-around, in a field of 82 competitors.

Francis, who was a reserve athlete for Great Britain's team at the 2012 Summer Olympics, tallied 51.099 overall. Her scores on the four pieces of apparatus were 12.933 on vault, 12.833 on uneven bars, 12.900 on beam, and 12.433 on floor.

Robinson, who tallied 44.467 for 35th overall, was the next best placed Jamaican, following scores of 11.833, 10.067, 11.300 and 11.267.

“The guys placed 13th of 22 teams, with two falls on the pommel horse which resulted in us not being able to qualify as a team; but we are so happy that we were given two spots and I am very proud of them. It was also a great accomplishment by the female team who placed 11th overall.

“This is the first time we compete with two full teams at any senior international event, and ultimately the first time qualifying for the Pan Am Games as well. So obviously we are overjoyed and we will grow with humility and pride as we continue to progress and take small strides to reach our ultimate goal of becoming one of the top sports in Jamaica,” Grant-Brown stated.

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