Sport

Grant maintains high hopes for local gymnastics

BY SHERDON COWAN
Observer staff reporter
cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 14, 2018

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WITH her vision to acquire a home for her athletes to train yet to come to fruition, president of the National Gymnastics Federation (NGF) Nicole Grant remains cautiously optimistic about that particular endeavour in her expectations for this year.

Despite the lack of sponsorship, which she cited as their biggest nuisance last year, Grant pointed out that she was very pleased with the federation's accomplishments over the 2017 calendar.

“We accomplished 90 per cent of our goals last year. Our main focus was on coaches development and we were lucky to have two FIG (International Federation of Gymnastics)-sponsored coaching academies lasting seven days each, as well as we were able to send one coach to Panama for a one-week coaching camp, and two to Trinidad and Tobago for a high-performance coaching workshop.

“Along with that, Jamaica was able to send a male team of five gymnasts to the Artistic World Championships for the first time to try to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in the team category; unfortunately we failed. But what was even more disappointing was us not getting a sponsor on board to buy into our vision,” Grant told the Jamaica Observer.

As such, Grant explained that the sporting body will be taking steps this year to improve the marketability of the sport. She believes working in tandem with other sporting bodies is one such avenue in which to drum up support.

“So far we have beefed up our marketing personnel with a new vice-president of marketing and fundraising, Mr Nicholas Sanchez, along with director Ingrid Chung, and they will be at the forefront of our efforts as we will also tap into the Diaspora to garner more support for the sport,” she revealed.

That aside, the president, who is now in her third year, noted that the gymnastic season is already off to a solid start with the arrival of Chinese Coach Zou Zhengqiu — who holds 47 years of experience under his belt — to assist with the development of the junior programme.

The partnership will also provide several of Jamaica's gymnasts with the opportunity to train in China during the summer for a three-year period starting this year.

“We are truly excited about the Chinese arrival because we are very young in our development. Basically this is our third year on this development path and their involvement will help us to assess if we are on the right path.

“The coach will be here for 30 days and he will visit and train our gymnasts at several gymnastics school across Jamaica. He will also help us to find talent to be a part of our junior programme, so hopefully the language barrier will not hinder our progress as we hope to achieve the most out of his visit,” said Grant.

She pointed out that the Junior Development team, which is currently riding high on their improved performances at the Winterfest in Baltimore and Carib Fest in Virginia last year, are already in preparation mode ahead of the Strathcona Gym Challenge in Edmonton and Gymnix International in Montreal, both in Canada.

The Strathcona Challenge will be contested by athletes between the ages of five and 12 years old in the lower levels one to five compulsory routine category, while athletes aging nine and older will compete in the optional category at the Gymnix Challenge.

Canadian-based Mackenzie Robinson, who made her senior debut at the Artistic World Championship, will represent the island in the Gymnix International Category.

These competitions scheduled for March are just two of the several events lined up on what is expected to be a very active season of gymnastics.

“Well, the gymnasts train very hard so we have high expectations, but this is the first time they will compete in Canada and we are not familiar with the level of competition there, which is why we are trying to ensure we give them as much exposure to competitions in different countries.

“Our programme is structured in such a way to give all our juniors on the Developmental team the exposure and the competitions needed to prepare them for Junior National Meets by the time they get to age 13.

“They would have gained much-needed competition practice and would be comfortable competing at this level, so over the next four years we hope to have a full Junior Team at the Junior Pan-Am and the Youth Olympics,” Grant explained.

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