Five-time Commonwealth Games champion Claudia Fragapane has announced her retirement from gymnastics at the age of 26.

Fragapane, who also won two World Championship medals including being part of the team that claimed an historic bronze in 2015, said it was “the right time” to leave the sport.

The Bristol athlete shot to fame when she won four golds at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, and later found a whole new fanbase when she competed in the 2016 edition of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.

Fragapane told British Gymnastics: “It feels like the right time. I’m really happy with my career, gymnastics has been my whole life for as long as I remember, but now I’m ready to flick over a new chapter.

“I started gymnastics at six years old, and from my first session at Bristol Hawks I said ‘I want to go to the Olympics’. I don’t think I knew how hard that would be at the time.

“But I absolutely loved the competitive side of gymnastics, I loved working hard to achieve what I wanted to. Once I started to get selected for squads, I just had this hunger to achieve more and more, and be the best I could be.”

Fragapane realised her Olympic dream when she competed at the 2016 Games in Rio. After recovering from a series of serious injuries, she won her fifth Commonwealth Games gold medal as part of the Great Britain women’s team in Birmingham in 2022.

The Paris Olympics and Euro 2024 will underpin next year’s sporting calendar.

Here, the PA news agency picks out 10 stars who are expected to shine.

Sky Brown

Britain’s skateboard superstar claimed an historic bronze medal at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics and will head to Paris as the reigning world champion in the park category. Still only 15, Brown has still not given up hope of also representing Team GB in the Olympic surfing event in Tahiti.

Simone Biles

One of the world’s greatest ever gymnasts launched a spectacular return in 2023, after an extended hiatus to prioritise mental health. With a remarkable four world golds, including in the prestigious women’s all-around, Biles once again set her stall out as the star to watch in Paris.

Noah Lyles

The US track star dazzled in 2023, winning gold in both 100m and 200m at the World Championships in Budapest. Looking to build on the 200m bronze he took in Tokyo, Lyles is intent on expanding his horizons by potentially also forming a part of the men’s 4x400m relay squad.

Jude Bellingham

England’s Bellingham has made a stunning start to his Real Madrid career, scoring 12 goals in his first 14 LaLiga appearances and also becoming the first player to score in each of his first four Champions League appearances for the club. A sensational platform at Euro 2024 in Germany awaits.

Sam Walters

The 6ft 6ins Walters was one of the more dependable figures in another testing rugby league season for Leeds Rhinos, so it came as a great surprise that he was allowed to leave to join rivals and reigning Super League champions Wigan. Walters’ speed and power can only make the champions stronger.

Jannik Sinner

Speedy baseliner Sinner has been threatening to move into serious grand slam title contention for some time and the signs are that 2024 could be his year. Sinner won two of four meetings with Novak Djokovic – including a dramatic Davis Cup rubber – and more of the same is seemingly assured for 2024.

Luca Brecel

He probably will not practice and will be one of the first to write off his chances. But enigmatic Belgian Luca Brecel will return to the Crucible in April as the defending world snooker champion – and one of the few top-level current players who can boast the stamina to get to the end of the 17 gruelling days.

Kylian Mbappe

Mbappe might not be in the best of moods in relation to his club career but his importance to France – and his ability to light up the game’s biggest stages – will be in evidence during Euro 2024. Moreover, Mbappe still harbours hopes of appearing as an over-age player at the Paris Olympics.

Keely Hodgkinson

So far it has been a career of so near yet so far for the British 800 metres ace, who has had to settle for silver medals at consecutive world championships, as well as the Tokyo Olympics and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. All eyes will be on her bid to go one better in Paris.

Nat Sciver-Brunt

The all-rounder, who has landed a deal to play for Perth Scorchers in the next women’s Big Bash, will play a pivotal role when England are scheduled to head to Bangladesh in 2024 as one of the favourites to clinch the women’s T20 world title.

Jamaica’s Mariah Gordon made history on Saturday with the country’s first ever Gymnastics gold medal at the Pan American Hopes Tournament at the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston.

Gordon took home gold in the 11-12 Uneven Bars category ahead of Colombia’s Gabriela Herrera and Panama’s Aylin Lan.

Gordon had a 3.600 score for difficulty and an 8.633 score for execution for an overall score of 12.233, 0.067 more than Herrera and 0.433 more than Lan.

Jamaica also secured another medal through Zuri Mantadara-Clarke in the 11-12 Vault category. Mantadara-Clarke produced an overall score of 12.566 to finish fourth overall behind Panama’s Lan (12.600), Venezuela’s Mia Morales (12.700) and Puerto Rico’s Amaia Lebron (12.900).

Jamaica also finished fourth in the overall team standings with a score of 87.097. Colombia won the team title with 93.931 ahead of Venezuela (91.464) and Argentina (88.897).

Former Jamaican gymnast Danusia Francis has emerged as a newly elected member of the Panam Sports Athlete Commission. The announcement came during a meeting held at the Games, where athletes had the crucial task of choosing representatives from eight candidates over the course of the 22-day event.

Her selection came in part through tireless work behind the scenes from the Jamaica Gymnastics Association, who lobbied on the basis that Francis, who competed at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, has the ability to make significant impact on the careers of athletes from the Pan American region.

Expressing her excitement about this new responsibility, Francis, currently on vacation in Kenya, conveyed her enthusiasm for contributing to the betterment of sports and her adopted country. "I am very excited as sports and Jamaica have done so much for me, so to be able to contribute to a better future is a great opportunity to give back," she shared.

With a sense of gratitude for the opportunities she has received from the world of sports, Francis sees this role as a chance to make a positive impact on the future of athletics. "I have huge aspirations; however, I need to enter discussions and form my objectives from that," she added.

Despite being miles away on vacation, Francis is already planning her immediate steps upon her return from Kenya. She emphasized her commitment to reaching out to Jamaican athletes who have valuable opinions and contributions for the commission. "Once I'm back from Kenya next week, I will find out what the best way to get in touch with Jamaican athletes who have opinions and anything to bring to the commission is," she stated.

Francis is keen on fostering collaboration and ensuring that the voices of Jamaican athletes are heard within the commission. "When the first commission meeting will be, I will base it off that," she affirmed, highlighting her dedication to actively engage with her fellow athletes and make a meaningful impact through her role in the Panam Sports Athlete Commission.

 

 

 

Simone Biles defied a kidney stone to become the first female gymnast to win four all-around world titles, on this day in 2018.

Such was the American’s dominance of her sport, she could afford a series of uncharacteristic mistakes in Doha without feeling unduly threatened by her rivals, with Japan’s Mai Murakami taking silver more than one and a half points behind.

Victory gave Biles her 12th world gold medal and her second of the championships. She went on to collect six in total – four golds, one silver and one bronze.

However, after claiming the all-around title, she insisted: “I’m definitely more upset with myself than happy. It’s not who I am go out and bomb a meet like that.

“Even though I still won, I wish it had been something different. It kind of sucks that I did so bad and still won. You have to earn it and I don’t think I earned it tonight.”

Biles’ success was all the more remarkable given her admission to hospital the night before the qualifying round, but she refused to use her continuing discomfort as any kind of excuse.

 

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“If it had been a challenge for me, I wouldn’t have competed at all, rather than blame it on the kidney stone,” Biles added.

“I think finals will definitely cheer me up because I get to redeem myself and show people who I really am.”

Biles took a two-year break from competition following the Tokyo Olympics, during which time she announced she would be working on her mental health and also gave evidence to Congress over the abuse she suffered at the hands of disgraced doctor Larry Nassar.

Beth Tweddle won Great Britain’s first gold medal at the gymnastics World Championships in the uneven bars competition, on this day in 2006.

Tweddle had suffered injury disappointment at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne earlier in the year, but bounced back in Aarhus.

A score of 16.200 points was enough for Tweddle to beat defending world champion Anastasia Liukin and Italy’s Vanessa Ferrari to the title in Denmark.

British hopeful Tweddle had claimed bronze during the World Championships 12 months earlier, but a right ankle injury halted her momentum and forced a watching front for the Commonwealth Games.

Tweddle recovered to star at the European Championships in April with victory before she cleaned up at the British Championships later in the summer.

It raised expectations over what the Olympian could achieve at NRGi Arena and after Tweddle ranked fourth overall during the qualification phase, she suffered a fall the day before the uneven bars final.

 

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It did not knock the Liverpudlian off her stride and she peaked perfectly to post 16.200 points, beating Liukin’s total of 16.050 and Ferrari’s 15.775 tally.

Tweddle told BBC Five Live: “All my hard work has finally paid off and I’m absolutely ecstatic. A lot of people told me it would come, but I didn’t think it ever actually would. It hasn’t sunk in yet.

“I’ve had the bronze medal at the last two World Championships and to come out today after the fall yesterday and get through, it is an achievement.”

In what was a magnificent display of gymnastic excellence, a team of young gymnasts from Jamaica shone brightly at the COPA IGA tournament that concluded in Panama on Sunday. The team of 11 emerging talents wowed judges and spectators alike with several members of the team topping several disciplines.

Among the standouts was Selah Price, who while competing in the Beginners Group 2 category, was first in the All Around after topping the Floor Exercise (9.350), Beam (9.550) while finishing second in the Vault (9.375).

Also in that category, Marisol Hogarth finished third in the All Around having claimed second place in the Floor Exercise (9.350) and third in the Vault (9.300). She also did well on the Beam exercise. Joelle Williams placed fourth in the All Around. She was third on the Beam (9.400), fourth in the Vault (9.175) and sixth in her Floor exercise (8.550).

Harmony Burton finished in a commendable seventh place in the All Around. She was third in the Floor exercise (9.100) and sixth in the Vault (9.000). She scored an 8.75 on the Beam.

Not to be outdone, Dojanae Garwood, competing in the Beginners Group 3 category, was first in the All Around having topped the Vault with an impressive score of 9.8000 while finishing third in the Beam and Floor exercises with scores of 9.375 and 9.275, respectively.

Adriannah Bailey was second in the All Around in Group 3. She scored an impressive 9.550 to win the Beam and generated a score of 9.300 to finish in second place on the Floor. She was fifth in the Vault with a score of 9.500.

Not far behind was Leah Cowan, who finished in fourth place in the All Around. She impressed the judges while winning the Floor with a score of 9.350 and fourth in the Vault, scoring 9.525. She had a score of 8.900 on the Beam.

Emma-Marie Donaldson finished in sixth place in the All Around and had scores of 9.275 for fourth on the Beam, 9.250 for fifth place on the Floor and 9.175 in the Vault.

Lashay Chutcan shone brightly in the 12-plus category. She was first in the All Around and had excellent scores of 9.575 to finish first on the Beam, 9.450 to emerge victorious on the Floor and 9.700 for second place in the Vault.

Among the Beginners in Group 1, Harmonie-Jade Johnson was sixth in the All Around. She was fourth on the Floor (8.550), sixth in the Vault (8.675) and scored 9.110m on the Beam.

Meanwhile, Roshanique Ricketts was seventh in the All Around while finishing third in the Vault (9.350), fourth on the Beam (9.220) and seventh on the Floor (7.750).

The successful gymnasts are expected to return to Jamaica early Monday afternoon.

Britain’s Jake Jarman claimed Britain’s first medal of the World Gymnastics Championships with gold in the men’s vault in Antwerp.

The 21-year-old from Peterborough is the first British gymnast ever to claim the vault world title.

Jarman is the only gymnast in the world performing the Yonekura vault and he scored a huge 15.4 for that before being awarded 14.7 for his second vault, giving him an overall score of 15.05.

That was comfortably enough to put him top of the charts ahead of American Khoi Young and Nazar Chepurnyi of Ukraine, with Britain’s Harry Hepworth down in seventh.

“It’s doesn’t feel real yet,” said Jarman. “I just can’t believe it. I was definitely nervous competing, especially for that first vault. As soon as I landed that first vault, instantly I shut all my emotions down.

“I’m just super proud to be able to perform the way I did today under that stress and that pressure. It gives me a huge confidence boost, especially leading up to next year.”

It is Jarman’s first individual medal at world level. Last year he claimed four golds at the Commonwealth Games, took European gold in vault and was also a world bronze medallist in the team event.

The event had been somewhat disappointing for Britain prior to Jarman’s success, with the women’s and men’s teams both missing out on medals while Max Whitlock came off the apparatus during his pommel horse final.

Simone Biles became the most decorated gymnast in history after sealing her sixth career world all-around title at the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp.

The tournament marks the American’s return to major international competition after a two-year absence, and on Wednesday she led her team to a record seventh straight title.

Biles’ golden comeback continued in record-breaking style as she finished with a top score of 58.399, 1.633 points above Brazilian silver medallist Rebeca Andrade with compatriot Shilese Jones rounding out the top three.

Friday’s medal was Biles’ 34th at an Olympics or World Championship, the most achieved by a male or female gymnast in the history of the sport after surpassing the 33 achieved by Belarusian Vitaly Scherbo.

In a serendipitous twist, the 26-year-old’s historic gold came precisely 10 years – and in the exact same venue – as her first world all-around title in 2013.

Biles could still add more medals to her collection with the individual apparatus finals still to come on Saturday and Sunday – Biles has qualified for all four.

There was drama for Great Britain before the all-around competition even got under way.

Jessica Gadirova, the 2022 world floor champion, dropped out of the event at the last minute, British Gymnastics announcing the decision in a tweet which read: “Update. As a precautionary measure Jessica Gadirova will not be competing in tonight’s all-around World final, Alice Kinsella will now compete in her place for Great Britain.”

Kinsella ultimately finished seventh with a score of 54.032, while team-mate Ondine Achampong placed 13th in her first world all-around final.

Kinsella, the 2023 British national all-around champion, admitted the dramatic call-up came as a shock.

She told the BBC: “I only went [out] to do little bits and bobs like stretching, conditioning, and then I went off to get my foot rubbed, then my coach came over and was like, ‘Alice, you need to get your leotard on straight away.’

“I was a bit stressed, I didn’t really know what to do or say to anyone. I just ran to the toilet, shoved it on, and that was it really.”

Simone Biles won her 20th World Gymnastics Championships gold medal as the United States secured victory in the women’s team final in Antwerp.

Marking her return to major international competition after a two-year absence, the 26-year-old led her team to a record seventh straight title ahead of silver medallists Brazil and third-placed France.

Biles has already qualified for the women’s all-around final in first place, as well as reaching the finals on all four pieces of apparatus.

Great Britain, who had qualified in second place and had high hopes of making the podium, endured a number of early falls which effectively ruled them out of contention.

The team, comprising Jessica Gadirova, Ondine Achampong, Alice Kinsella, Georgia-Mae Fenton and 16-year-old debutant Ruby Evans, finished sixth with a total of 161.864.

Kinsella, the former European champion on beam, admitted: “I think we’ll learn a lot from today.

“We still enjoyed it but we know we could have done more. We fought it to the end as a team that’s the main thing. We’re disappointed but we’ll bounce back.”

Things may not have gone exactly how Barbados artistic gymnasts Olivia "Storm' Kelly and Anya Pilgrim would have hoped, but both still had some significant positives to boast from their FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium.

An historic Olympic Games qualification was the main target for the American-based Kelly and Pilgrim, and though they came up short in that regards, both took heart from their respective performances on Monday. 

Pilgrim, who was making her World Championships debut, welcomed the fact that she was able to overcome certain obstacles among the minor successes worth celebrating.

She tallied 46.500 All-Around, with scores of 13.100 on vault, 10.700 on uneven bars, 11.300 on the balance beam and 11.400 on her floor routine. 

"I wholly enjoyed the experience. I hit all of my routines this time, even the skill that has been gave me some trouble at PanAms. So even though I did not have much preparation, I was able to do well, and I am happy with the outcome and the support I got from family and others on the island which makes me even prouder," Pilgrim told SportsMax.tv.

"I believe my score was an improvement from PanAms but of course the judging is much tighter at an event like World Championships. So, again, I am delighted that I was able to hit my beam routine which has been my troublesome event after my injury last year," the Jenny Rowland-coached gymnast added.

Given the fact that her inclusion in the Championships was somewhat last minute, the 18-year-old Pilgrim says her performance speaks volumes of her scope for improvement. 

She pointed out that it will serve as a springboard for her to attain other goals and ambitions she has set for the season, particularly with her University of Florida team.

 "I am just going to soak up the atmosphere here in Belgium while I reflect on the experience before returning to Florida to resume training for my NCAA season. This season, the goal, of course, would be to win a National Championship with my team, and achieve some personal bests of my own," she declared.

"And since I had to prepare my routines so early, I now have built up my endurance and stamina to complete routines on each event way before my season which will help me a lot. So now I can focus more on the details," Pilgrim shared. 

For Kelly, it was her second appearance on the World Championships stage, and she beamed about the prospects, as she also expressed delight about improvements from last year's outing.

The 17-year-old, coached by Ashley Umberger, had scores of 13.200 on vault, 11.666 on uneven bars, 11.933 on the balance beam and 11.700 on her floor routine for an All-Around total of 48.499 for 75th overall. She rose three places higher than the 78th position she achieved last year.

"They took the top 14 girls, who are not on a team and the girl that placed 14th has a 49.965 and I finished with a 48.499 which means I basically just missed out. But even though I didn’t qualify here at Worlds, there are a few other opportunities I can use to qualify, but that depends on if Barbados will send me," Kelly explained. 

"The experience was amazing overall. I’m not exactly sure what the plan is now, but if those opportunities are presented to me by Barbados, I will take them gladly. If not, I remain contented with how my elite season ended this year and I’m excited to start my new chapter in college next summer," she noted.

Some of Jamaica’s most-talented young gymnasts have been selected to a National All-Stars School Team set to compete at the COPA IGA 2023 from October 5- 8th in Panama.  The 11 athletes will leave the island on Wednesday, October 4 with Coach Tristan Hall and manager Samantha Bell.

They are scheduled to return home on October 9.

The list of talented athletes includes: Adriannah Alexsis Bailey (Mount St. Joseph Preparatory School), Dojanae Ophelia Garwood (Mount Alvernia Preparatory School), Emma-Marie Antonnae Donaldson (St. Richards Primary School), Harmonie-Jade Isabella Johnson (Belair Preparatory School), Harmony Kimoya Burton (Dunrobin Primary School), Joelle Madison Williams (Mount Alvernia Preparatory School), Lashay Janoia Chutcan (Ardenne, formerly Marlie Mount Primary and Infant School), Leah Cowan (Immaculate Conception Preparatory School), Marisol Hogarth (American International School of Kingston), Roshanique Latanya Ricketts (Brixton Hill Primary and Infant School) and Selah Price (Immaculate Conception Preparatory School).

Coach Hall is very optimistic about the team assembled for the competition, stating, “As the head coach leading this all-star team to Panama I see great potential in each athlete. Our hard work, dedication, and strategic approaches have brought us to this opportunity and I am excited to witness the culmination of our efforts as we showcase our talent and determination in the upcoming meet. We will give it our all and make Jamaica proud.”

Team manager Bell echoed similar sentiments highlighting the fact that tremendous talents abounds within the island’s primary school system.

“Our All-Star team showcases the talent within our prep and primary schools. As team manager, my hopes are to see us cultivate raw talent, instill discipline, and nurture a culture of teamwork,” she said.

“I believe by fostering an environment where athletes can learn and grow, we can ultimately prepare them to represent our nation at the highest level of competition.”

The stage is set, and Olivia “Storm” Kelly is raring to go with hopes that she will produce something special, on this her second appearance at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships.

It is a moment the Barbadian gymnast has worked hard for all season, and as the September 30 to October 8 championships fast approaches, an Olympic Games berth which is among the spoils, is very much weighing on her mind.

Simply put, Kelly has her sight set on becoming the first gymnast to represent the Eastern Caribbean Island at the global multi-sport showpiece, and achieving such a feat would not only be a dream come true but would most certainly propel her budding career to higher heights.

While the expectations may be lofty, they are by no means impossible and given the experience gained from last year's championships, Kelly believes she is well positioned to prove more competitive on this occasion.

But for now, the 17-year-old is basking in the culture and scenery of Antwerp, a port city on Belgium's River Scheldt, almost like a calm before the proverbial storm.

"Belgium is so beautiful. So far, I’ve been able to walk around Antwerp a little to enjoy the scenery and there is just so much to do. The lifestyle here is very admirable and the food and people are incredible.

"I’ve adjusted pretty well to the six-hour time difference and have also been in training which has been going well since I arrived. So I am just making the most of the time before I jump into competition which I am really looking forward to," Kelly told SportsMax.tv from her base in Belgium.

One key component for the American-based Kelly is the fact that she will have compatriot Anya Pilgrim competing alongside her on this occasion, and that has not only added to her excitement, but more importantly, offers a slight boost in confidence.

The American-born Pilgrim, another talented gymnast, was a late call-up for the Championships after a qualified athlete opted not to take up their spot.

"Having Anya here has definitely made me more excited. It’s great to have another athlete/friend with me who is going through the exact same situation I am, as we are both seeking to be the first to gymnast to qualify and, by extension represent Barbados the Olympic Games," Kelly shared.

That said, Kelly pointed out that they have not only fed off each other’s energy building back up strength and endurance, while adding elements to increase their difficulty scores, but most importantly, ensuring they are both mentally and physically ready to rise to the occasion.

"Both of us are doing pretty well mentally and physically and are extremely excited to compete. Since it’s my second time at Worlds, I feel like I really know what I’m doing this time and I’m excited to explore this gorgeous place and compete for Barbados," she noted.

Beyond the excitement –which is understandable for any athlete returning on what is the biggest stage of her career at present –there is a serious side to Kelly, and she is focused on ensuring her performance quality and the details of her routine are on point.

"Making it to the Olympics would mean so much to me. Ever since I started competing in Gymnastics it’s been my long-term goal. For a while I gave up on that dream thinking it was impossible. But now, I’m just so grateful to have even made it this far and have the opportunity to live out my dream," the bubbly athlete ended.

 

November 30, 2022 is forever etched in Anya Pilgrim's mind. It is one of the scariest days of her life and a day when all her fears and thoughts will always weigh heavily on her heart.

On that fateful day, Pilgrim, while preparing to represent University of Florida in Artistic Gymnastics, suffered a freak accident, which derailed her career progress, as she took her time to recover.

Now almost one year on, the American-born Pilgrim, who represents Barbados, has not only grown stronger, but is also one who takes her life and sport seriously, as her unwavering commitment to fulfilling a passion she always dreamed of, is clear for all to see.

"This past season had some ups and downs. At the beginning of the season after signing to the University of Florida, I had fell and landed on my neck and was out of the gym for about six weeks and had to recover from a concussion. It was not an easy road. I had to overcome my fears of injury to be able to even step back into the sport," Pilgrim told SportsMax.tv.

"Luckily I did, and only a week after I started training again, I decided to compete at my next competition where I achieved my personal best score of a 9.95 on the vault. So, these highs and lows have taught me that I am strong enough and more than capable of rise above any circumstances and come out successful," she added.

Pilgrim, who previously represented the United States national team in 2019, qualified to represent Barbados through her grandparents, who not only instilled life lessons to assist in her craft, but continues to inspire her path toward a fulfilling career.

"Both of my grandparents were athletes and represented Barbados in their respective sports, so I always looked up to them since they were high level athletes and wanted to follow in their footsteps, which I am now proudly doing," Pilgrim shared.

The 18-year-old, who earned a silver medal in the all-around competition at the United States National championships, along with a top five finish at the Nastia Liukin Cup, first donned the Barbados colours at PanAm championships in Colombia and from there, her appetite for more competition with the Caribbean Island became insatiable.

"It was also the first time Barbados was able to have a team at an event in gymnastics. I loved the experience and competing with my teammates. I was overall pleased with my performance, even though I had a mistake on one of the apparatuses, but considering I went to the competition right after Nationals, I did well, as the travelling resulted in missed training sessions," she said.

Pilgrim's performance at the PanAm Championships earned her an alternate for the World Gymnastics Championships in Budapest, and as fate would have, one of the qualified athletes has declined their spot and that opened the door for her to join Olivia "Storm" Kelly, as Barbados representatives in Antwerp.

The championship is scheduled to begin on September 30 and end on October 8.

Pilgrim knows all too well that this call up to fill the gap represents an opportunity to not only strut her stuff on one of gymnastics biggest stage, but also to possibly qualify for the Olympic Games, she is determined to make the most of it.

In fact, Pilgrim, having taken lessons from her PanAm performance, is hoping to polish up those errors to bring more success on this occasion. 

"I am very grateful to have another opportunity to represent Barbados and am really looking forward to getting to share the experience with Olivia. We all had a great time at PanAm so I’m glad we will have another chance to not only compete together, but possibly create some history for Barbados," Pilgrim declared.

"Unlike PanAm, I am hoping to do much better with my routimes and just be present and enjoy every moment of the championships. When my mind is clear I perform at my best and I also added in a couple of different skills to help increase my scores. So, I'm really looking forward to it," she added from her base in Belgium.

While qualifying for next year’s Olympic Games in Paris, remains her biggest goal and ambition, Pilgrim pointed out that just getting a chance to parade her skills at the World Championships, would suffice, if her dream doesn't come to fruition.

"Honestly, I would love to win a National Championship at the University of Florida, that is one of my biggest goals, along with being at the World Championships, which I am now. If I were to qualify for an Olympic Games, it would be icing on the cake of a fulfilling career," she ended.

Jamaican Olympian Toni-Ann Williams has achieved a remarkable milestone by obtaining her Master's Degree in Ethics and Integrity, with distinction, a significant feat made possible through an Olympic Solidarity Scholarship provided by the Jamaica Olympic Association.

Having pursued her postgraduate degree at renowned institutions across Europe, including Ku Leuven in Belgium, Charles University in Prague, the University of Peloponnese in Greece, the University of Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain, and the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität in Mainz, Germany, Williams absorbed diverse cultures and communities throughout her academic journey.

"Being able to adapt and integrate myself into different communities and cultures was really exciting," said a grateful Williams whose post-graduate thesis was themed “Safeguarding regulations in American collegiate sport: Ethical comparative analysis of Title IX and SafeSport.

The now 27-year-old athlete, who made history in 2016 as the first gymnast to represent Jamaica at the Rio Olympic Games, embarked on this academic journey with determination, studying various aspects of sports ethics and integrity.

Reflecting on her two-year educational odyssey, Williams expressed immense fulfillment, stating, "It was very fulfilling. I'm very excited to be able to celebrate two years of hard work to accomplish this master's degree." She underscored the critical importance of studying sports ethics and integrity, given the myriad decisions and governance challenges that pervade the sporting world.

A graduate in Legal Studies and Social Welfare from the University of California, Berkeley, in Europe Williams delved deep into topics such as anti-doping policies, ethical considerations, safeguarding, corruption, and betting within the realm of sports. Her scholarly endeavors were fueled by a desire to effect positive change in the sporting arena, particularly in gymnastics and her native Jamaica.

“Being able to bring that back to not only gymnastics, but to Jamaica and how I can bring positive change to the sporting world for everybody, it was really fulfilling to be able to accomplish something like this, especially within a program overseas,” she said.

“Never living in Europe for the, you know, ever, and being able to put myself into a new culture and community, it's really fulfilling to be able to accomplish something like this."

One of the most rewarding aspects of her program was the opportunity to connect with individuals passionate about sports and ethics from around the world, expanding her network and forming valuable friendships. "I got to meet so many great people, so many smart, intelligent, important people," Williams remarked.

However, her academic journey was not without its challenges, as she navigated the complexities of studying in different countries every six months, requiring meticulous planning and organization.

"I think the most challenging part about the program is, as I mentioned, is being is traveling to different cultures and communities and countries every six months.

"It's tough because alongside studying in academia, um, you're also having to be a travel agent. You're having to sort out your own visa, your accommodation, your flights and plan everything well in advance on top of studying and reading and doing all these things for research.

“So this is a very unique part about this program and probably was the most difficult and more mentally draining. And I think that's what makes it super unique and it made it really challenging but it has taught me so many skills that I can bring now into my life in terms of being able to multi-task in project management and do all sorts of things like that.”

Her academic journey also equipped her with the tools and perspective to drive positive change, and she is committed to fostering a more empathetic and understanding sporting environment that transcends stereotypes and celebrates diversity.

“I think the most eye-opening thing was understanding that there are stereotypes and that people also come with stereotypes about you being Jamaican with an American accent definitely raises a lot of questions,” she revealed.

"And being able to be empathetic and understanding and also encouraging other people to be empathetic and understanding and to understand that you're not your stereotype or who people think you are, or judging a book by its cover.

“Being able to be empathetic and being respectful when in other people's countries and understanding their differences and celebrating it. I think that's something I feel like I've learned.”

Now armed with a wealth of knowledge and experience, Williams has taken up a position with LA28, the organizing committee for the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games to be hosted in Los Angeles, California. As part of the athlete fellowship program, Williams contributes to LA28's initiative to provide athletes with a more prominent voice within the organization of the Olympic Games.

In her role within the community relations department, Williams is focused on enhancing community preparedness for the international influx that accompanies the Olympic Games. She is actively involved in initiatives to bolster youth sports, engage local businesses in decision-making processes, and strengthen the bonds between the Olympic Games and the Los Angeles community.

Williams is optimistic about the future and her ability to contribute to the development of sports, particularly gymnastics, in Jamaica. She emphasized the importance of ethical governance, transparency, accountability, and athlete-centered leadership in building a stronger foundation for the sport.

"I think in many ways I can help gymnastics in Jamaica, and not just gymnastics but other sports, but specifically for gymnastics, understanding, learning about governance and the ethics behind governance and transparency and accountability and how ethical leadership could can conduct themselves in order to be more athlete centered," she concluded.

"And I think we can help build a stronger organization and association for gymnastics, have a stronger foundation, give athletes what they need to thrive mentally and physically. I know it's not going to be immediate help right now, but it's something that can be built over the years and I think we need to start with a strong foundation to be able to build upon and be able to have a better sport for Jamaica.”

 

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