With the world championships just around the corner, most gymnasts and delegation have already arrived to Glasgow, ready to show us what they are capable of. Most of those athletes are there to represent the country where they have lived and trained for their whole lives, but there are also a few cases of gymnasts who will be competing under the flag of a different country than the one where they train. Most of them have dual sitizenship, while others have chosen to live abroad in order to have better training conditions and it will be interesting to take a look at some of them.
Alaina Kwan and Kylie Dickson, Belarus
Alaina Kwan and Kylie Dickson were two of the most discussed athletes during the last month. However, they didn’t gain that attention with their skill level or their results in the sport. The two new elites, who train at the All Olympia Gymnastics Academy with coaches Artur Akopyan and Galina Marinova, decided to represent Belarus at the upcoming gymnastics world championships. This is a rather controversial decision because the only connection those two athletes have with that country, is the fact that their coaches have connections with Nellie Kim and the Belorussian gymnastics committee. Alaina and Kylie are not from Belarus. They probably had never heard of Belarus before this opportunity arose and I doubt that they could even find it in a map. They also never went through an official selection progress. They got their dual citizenship, they got their passports and they suddenly were in the country’s world team, over Belorussian athletes who have actually been representing their country during the entire year. I obviously don’t blame the gymnasts themselves, because if I were in their position, I would have grabbed that opportunity without a second thought. However, I am definitely not in favor of this situation. I’m not going to talk more about this issue, because I’m not going to say more about this issue, because thegymter.net has already put my thought into worlds better than I possibly could. However, one can’t deny that there’s something wrong with an athlete who is simply not good enough to make the worlds team in their own country to randomly pick an other country to represent. Kylie shows good potential on bars, where she’s capable of an endo 1/2, a chow and a tkatcev while her floor routine includes a front tuck + double pike combination and her beam set includes a front tuck, a front aerial, a switch half and 2.5 twists as the dismount. On vault, she is capable of a yurchenko double twist and she has actually be training amanars. Alaina performs a jaeger and a tkatcev on bars, a full twisting yurchenko on vault and a double pike on floor. Her best event is the balance beam, where she has a respectable 5.7 start value since she’s capable of a double turn, a sissone into a side aerial, a switch half and a double tuck dismount. They are both artistic, flexible and talented gymnasts, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are not Belorussian.
Danusia Francis, Jamaica
The fabulous Danusia Francis, who is determined to become Jamaica’s first gymnast to qualify into the Olympics, is set to return to the world championships for the first time since 2011. Back then, she represented Great Britain at Tokyo, helping the team achieve a historic fifth place finish during team finals. Now, four years later, she comes back under the Jamaican flag. At the age of 9, Danusia moved away from home so she could continue training and she has represented Great Britain at multiple international competitions in the past, including the world and the European championships. After being named a reserve for the 2012 Olympic team, Francis entered a new chapter in her career and moved all the way to Los Angeles, to compete for UCLA. Understandably, that was a hard transition for her and she felt homesick lots of times, but at the end it definitely paid of, as she is one of the most loved and popular college gymnasts currently competing. In order to qualify to the Rio Olympics, Danusia needs to win an individual medal at worlds or to compete All Around at next year’s test Event. Since the first scenario is rather unlikely, she had to start training on vault again for the first time in about three years and she showed a beautiful full twisting yurchenko at the recent British team championships. At the same competition, she performed a side somi, a side aerial and a y turn on balance beam, a maloney + bail combination and a jaeger on the uneven bars and a double tuck, a memmel turn and a ferrari on floor exercise. Danucia, who trained at the Houston Gymnastics Club before heading to Glasgow, doesn’t have the highest start values out there, but her unique silivas mount on beam, her incredible flexibility and her fantastic choreography on floor will make her stand out among the other competitors. She has also been training an original side somi into a scale, which would look absolutely stunning. If she hits all her routines during qualifications, the All Around finals is not out of the question for her. Her road to Glasgow has not been easy since she’s suffering from a broken rib but this is not going to stop her from chasing her dream.
You can read more about Danusia here
Houry Gebeshian, Armenia
Houry Gebeshian, who was born in Massachusetts, started gymnastics for the same reasons most gymnasts do. She was a very energetic kid, who was encouraged to go to the gym in order to use all that energy and fell in love with the sport. Her passion and talent got her in the NCAA level and she competed for the University of Iowa for four years, which she considers the best of her life. As Houry said to the triple twist gym blog, a family friend who works in Armenia’s Olympic committee gave her the opportunity to compete for her parent’s country and she grabbed it with both hands. She represented Armenia at the 2011 gymnastics world championships and she became the third reserve for the London Olympics. Houry was proud of that achievement, but she was also disappointed to be so close to achieving her dream and the fact that she didn’t manage to perform at her best due to injuries frustrated her even more. So, after taking a three years break from gymnastics, she decided to come back and chase her Olympic Dream for the second time. She returned to competition at the 2015 European championships, where she wrote history by becoming Armenia’s first European finalist in women’s gymnastics and she placed 19th in the All Around. Now, she has set yer eyes to Glasgow. Some of her most notable skills are her jaeger and full in on bars, her side aerial and double tuck dismount on beam, her full twisting yurchenko on vault and her double tuck and double pike on floor.
You can read more about Houry here
Kaylee Shae Cole, Bolivia
Kaylee is a level 10 gymnast who trains at Texas Dreams with former world champion Kim Zemskal and her husband, Chris Burdette. She has won multiple medals at level 10 Invitationals in the United States and she recently competed at the Pan-american Games, representing Bolivia. She was still coming back from an injury, and was able to only compete on bars and beam. She showed a nice front aerial on beam and a gienger and a beautiful double arabian dismount on bars. In the past, she has competed a 2.5 + front tuck and a 1.5 + front full on floor and a double twisting yurchenko on vault.
Tori Ann Williams, Jamaica
Tori-Ann Williams, who competes for the University of California-Berkeley, is no stranger to the international scene since she has already represented Jamaica twice at the sports biggest stage. More specifically, she has competed at the 2011 and the 2013 world championships. She was born in Baltimore from Jamaican parents and as she said, competing for Jamaica has helped her connect with her Jamaican heritage even more. She is hoping that her and her teammates’ performance will help promote Jamaican gymnastics and encourage little girls from the country to get involved with the sport. Just like every other athlete, she has sustained injuries during her career, like torn muscles, broken toes and ankle injuries, but she kept going. As a college gymnast, Tori-Ann trains 20 hours a week and she performs a powerful double layout and a sky high double pike on floor and a gorgeous full twisting yurchenko on vault
Thema Williams, Trinidad and Tobago
Thema Williams, who used to train at Tots & Tumblers, wrote history for Trinidad and Tobago when she became their first athlete to compete at the world championships in 2011. She didn’t have the best competition of her career, but being in the same arena with the very best gymnasts in the world motivated to work even harder. In order to reach her full potential, Thema lived a host family in the United States so she can have the opportunity to train at Twistar’s, under the coaching of John and Catherine Geddert. She has plenty of international experience, since she has competed at major competitions like, the Osijek world cup, the Pan-American championships and of course, the world championships. Her ultimate goal is to earn a spot for the Rio. If she manages to do that, she will be the first ever gymnast of her country to ever compete at the Olympic Games. She is a powerful and flexible athlete, capable of impressive skills, like a double arabian and a 2.5 twist + front tuck combination on floor, a tkatcev on bars and a full twisting yurchenko on vault. In the gym, she has trained difficult elements and combinations, like a double layout, a yurchenko double full, a switch ring and a front aerial + side aerial + switch leap + front tuck combination on balance beam.
You can read more about Thema here
Marisa Dick, Trinidad and Tobago
Thema’s teammate, Marisa Dick was born in Canada and she has lived all her life there. She trains at Ortona Gymnastics Club and she has been competing for Trinidad and Tobago, which is her mother’s country, since 2012. In 2013, she participated in the 2013 world championships in Antwerp, where she finished 50th in the All Around and 30th on vault. In 2014, she earned her country’s first international medal in gymnastics, when she placed second on beam and third on vault at the Commonwealth Invitational in Scotland. This year, we saw her competing at the Pan-american Games, where she achieved an impressive 16th place finish in the All Around and had the 30th highest score on balance beam. Her best event is the balance beam. Her routine includes a beautiful split mount, a double turn, a switch leap into a side aerial, a split jump into a side somi and a double full dismount while she’s capable of full twisting yurchenko on vault and a double tuck, a double L turn and 2.5 twists on floor exercise, where she has a dramatic routine to Requiem for a dream. She downgraded her difficulty on this event at the Pan-american Games but hopefully, she will be ready for Glasgow. On bars, she performs a jaeger, a pak salto and an unusual toe on tucked half out dismount.
Alma Kuc, Poland
Alma Kuc is a graceful young gymnast, who trains at the All Olympia Gymnastics Academy and represents Poland in international competitions. At the age of 17, she has already lived in four different countries and she speaks three different languages. Her father’s job requires lots of travelling around the world, and Alma, who was born in Toronto, Canada, has also lived in Argentina and Brazil before moving to the United States of America. She also has polish roots, and she can speak Spanish, English, Polish and a bit of Portuguese. She had a succesful level 10 career, winning medals in several competitions and she qualified for the Nastia Liukin Cup in 2013. As an elite athlete, she has represented Poland at the European and the world championships of 2014. She had some disappointing routines at Nanning, but she helped Poland qualify a full team to this year’s worlds and she will hopefully get her redemption at Glasgow. She has had the time to recover from the surgery she had last October, in order to reconstruct two ligaments on her foot and she is now ready for her second world championships. Some of her most notable skills are her full twisting yurchenko on vault, her gienger, her inbar stalder + pak salto combination and her full in dismount on bars and her triple twist on floor.
Ava Verdeflor, Philippines
Ava Verdeflor, who was born in Philippines but has lived her entire life in the United States of America, is a first year senior who trains at the legendary WOGA with Laurent Landi and Natasha Boyarskaya. Since both her parents are from the Philippines, Ava always knew that competing for this country was a possibility and it all became official when she won the All Around gold at the Philippine National Games in 2013 and made the national team. She visits the Philippines every year, she competes at the National Games and she has bonded with her teammates, with whom she keeps in touch through social media. One of her main goal is to promote gymnastics in her country and inspire young gymnasts join the sport and despite her young age, she is already doing that. She finished fifth at the Nadia Comaneci Invitational and 12th at the Junior Asian Championships, where she qualified for the Youth Olympic Games. There, she did an excellent job, finishing 11th in the All Around and qualifying into the uneven bars finals. Ava made her senior debut at the 2015 Southeast Asian Games, where she helped her team win a bronze medal, finished fourth in the All Around and won the silver medal on the uneven bars. She has gorgeous swing and execution on the uneven bars, where she performs a high jaeger and a perfect bail to handstand and she’s capable of a double pike on floor, a side aerial and a front aerial + split jump on beam and a full twisting yurchenko on vault.