In the nick of time!
American-born gymnast Walker decides to represent Ja in time for Junior Pan Am ChampsFriday, June 18, 2021
After constantly tracking the progress of Alana Walker, waiting and hoping that the American-born gymnast would join team Jamaica, President of Jamaica Gymnastics Association (JAGA) Nicole Grant-Brown got her wish, and in the nick of time.
The talented 14-year-old Walker, whose mother Yeshima is from Kingston and father Andrew from St Mary, is currently the lone Jamaican gymnast in Mexico for the Junior Pan American Championships scheduled to begin on Friday and end on Sunday.
Interestingly, it was only a week ago that Walker's parents reached out to Grant-Brown expressing an interest to have the New Jersey-based gymnast parade her skills for the black, green, and gold, even though she was well on her way to representing the United States Developmental Team, having earlier won their nationals at level 10.
For Grant-Brown, the decision to have Walker represent Jamaica could not have come at a better time, as the two athletes — Raeya Linton and Alana Johnson — initially selected for the Championships, pulled out at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances.
“Our overseas scouts have been watching Alana for some time, however, JAGA has made it a rule never to approach athletes with dual citizenship for several reasons. We watch their progress and hope they will reach out to us, if they so desire,” Grant-Brown shared.
“So we were happy when her parents made contact. Actually, I am bit overwhelmed with excitement because I feel like Alana has been a part of the gymnastics family for years because I have known of Alana from she was much younger, before I became president.
“I always hoped, but never knew that this kid would choose to represent Jamaica at this time. Her talent for the sport was evident from day one and I am glad she stuck with it to be our lone entry at this very important and crucial event, which is a major part of our development process,” she told the Jamaica Observer prior to boarding a flight to Mexico.
If successful at the Junior Pan Am Games Championships, Walker would go on to represent Jamaica at the Junior Pan Am Games scheduled for Cali, Colombia, in September, which also serves as a qualifier for the Youth Olympics.
According to Grant-Brown, the fact that Walker was selected for the US Developmental Team at level 10 speaks volumes to her immense potential, which brings a wave of optimism that she will represent Jamaica well.
“Making that cut is very hard because the USA is a leading gymnastics country that has thousands of young gymnasts vying for such a place. So, again, I am happy that she chose to represent us and I am sure she is also happy to have made the choice. As a past national hockey player, I know that wearing the Jamaican colours and representing the country is a very powerful and magical feeling,” Grant-Brown reasoned.
“At this stage of her development, we only expect simply her best. We already know how difficult the sport of gymnastics is, both physically and psychologically, so added pressure is definitely a no-no. We want her to be comfortable, relaxed, and just have fun with her performances, as the experience at this stage is very crucial to the development process,” she added.
On that note, Grant-Brown expressed gratitude to Pan American Gymnastics Union (PAGU) President Naomi Valenzo and the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA), among others, for their brisk response in making Walker's presence at the championship possible.
“Though it was less than two weeks before the event, we are super grateful to the PAGU who assisted us to get approval for the event, the JOA for providing much-needed funds, our overseas-based Team Manager Marlene Hylton-Williams, who played a major role in ensuring her FIG licence was validated in a matter of hours, rather than the usual days and, of course, Alan's parents for their part in the process,” said Grant-Brown.
— Sherdon Cowan
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