Marisa Dick of St. Albert secured a spot at the Rio 2016 Summer Games on short notice as the first gymnast to represent Trinidad and Tobago at the Olympics.
Dick, who has dual Canadian/Trinidad and Tobago citizenship, replaced Thema Williams as the country's representative at Sunday's test event in Rio de Janerio after the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation withdrew Williams from the final Olympic qualifier on the eve of the competition.
In a media release Saturday, the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation said it made an emergency decision to pull Williams from the test event due to an injured ankle. Williams, 20, was in Rio at the time.
However, her coach, John Geddert, who is also the coach of the United States women's artistic gymnastic team, disputed the allegations. A lawyer was hired to reinstate Williams but the appeal against the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation was ruled unsuccessful by an arbitrator and Dick was allowed to compete.
Geddert was quoted in the Saturday media release as saying: “Thelma 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 shown no signs of recovery. We are concerned for her health and cannot risk further injury.”
It was revealed by Wired868 that Geddert's mandatory daily report to the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation on the Friday leading up to the test event stated: “Podium was a disaster with six falls on three events. She has been dealing with a sore ankle to the point that I asked her to withdraw last week. She assured me she can do this.”
The lawyer representing Williams argued there was a misinterpretation of the training update by Geddert, which was incomplete, by the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation.
Dick was in Fort McMurray for the Alberta championships when she was summoned by the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation. She left Friday night to catch an early Saturday morning flight to Houston and landed in Brazil on Sunday morning and five hours later was at the test event.
The Ortona Gymnastics Club athlete placed 55th overall with scores of 13.1466 on vault, 12.366 on uneven bars, 13.2 on beam and 12.333 on floor in her qualifying round.
The Gazette reached out to Dick's handlers for comment, but there was no reply at press time.
But at Wednesday's press conference in Trinidad and Tobago, Dick was accompanied by five police officers. Her mom, Hannifer, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago, was also in attendance. Wired868 reported the police presence was in response to alleged death threats against Dick, as controversy continues to swirl in published reports and social media over her replacement of the homegrown Williams at the test event.
At the 2015 world championships in October, Williams placed 59th and Dick finished 77th out of 192 participants in Glasgow, Scotland.
Trinidad and Tobago had one gymnastic spot available for Rio and Williams was the front-runner and Dick was next in line.
At the press conference, Dick said Williams supported her, according to a Thursday story in the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian.
“Yes, she supported me in Rio and I supported her after worlds. I was heartbroken that I would not be the one going to the Olympics but I was so supportive of her because it's T&T that will be going to the Olympics. It's not myself or Thema, it's T&T. We have both been supportive of each other just because we know it's not just us it's about the country,” Dick said.
“I am really proud that T&T will be represented in the Olympics, whether it's myself or Thema. Gymnastics is a growing sport in T&T and the Olympics is the biggest event in sport. For T&T to be represented in the Olympics is just really exciting,” the Paul Kane High School alumna added.
The media firestorm was also addressed.
“This is tough. It gets in your head. You have to focus on what is important and what is important is competing at the Olympics for T&T and putting us on the world map,” Dick said.
Williams and Dick were also the centre of attention over somewhat revealing upper-body selfies days apart that were sent to members of the Trinidad and Tobago gymnastics community and media. It's unclear if the same person or two different parties sent the images, with Williams the first to appear via Instragram and Dick's picture appeared to be taken on Snapchat.
Both athletes were sent to the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation disciplinary committee for a chat.
Dick, the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation 2015 Sportswoman of the Year nominee, also made headlines at her second worlds last year by performing her signature mount on beam despite a rib injury. The skill – a switch split to free split sit – has been entered into the sport's Code of Points in her name.