President of the Jamaica Gymnastics Association has described Alana Walker’s historic bronze medal performance in women artistic gymnastics at the Junior Pan Am Gymnastics Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Saturday as a major boost for the sport locally, one that could help the association generate desperately needed funding.

The 14-year-old Walker scored 49.850 to finish third in the All-Around – bars, beam, floor and vault - that was won by the USA’s Katelyn Jong with a score of 54.10.  Her compatriot Madray Johnson scored 53.550 for second place. It was the first time that Jamaica has ever won a medal in gymnastics at a major event.

By winning the bronze medal, Alana, who is coached by Ashley Brooke Umberger at North Stars Gymnastics in Boonton, New Jersey, automatically qualifies for the Junior Pan Am Championships in Colombia later this year.

Grant, who spoke to Sportsmax.TV from Panama said this victory provides the push needed for the sport to continue to grow locally.

“Every appearance at any international competition of this nature is always a boost for the sport, that is what we thrive to be a part of and that is why we are working on our programme to ensure that we can participate and compete effectively as a country, as young as our sport is locally,” Grant told Sportsmax.TV today.

“This major win for us is very important to the growth and development of our local sport because it shows that we have the ability and the capability to do well in gymnastics.

“This is also a major boost for our young gymnasts who are preparing for a youth competition in Colombia later this year, the Pan American Age-Group Hopes Tournament where the age-group levels are from age eight right up to age 14 and she will also be competing in the elite category as well.”

Notwithstanding these achievements, Grant said, the sport continues to face significant obstacles.

“Our setback is equipment, landing equipment, something that we have been campaigning for, for some time now and it’s very important because when someone like Alana comes to Jamaica and trains at the gym, the landing equipment is not good enough at this time because of the kind of skills that she or he has,” Grant said.

“And that is why we are working so hard because when our elite athletes come to Jamaica they are in awe of the gym but as it relates to the landing aspect, it’s just not up to the standard and it’s really dangerous for them to train their high-level skills.”

Grant thanked the Jamaica Olympic Association, which she said, did not hesitate to provide funding for the trip, despite the ‘last-minute request’.  She also thanked Alana’s parents, who “have always been there and have put out a lot of effort to ensure that she got the documentation in order for her to compete at the event.

She also expressed her gratitude to Marlene Hylton-Williams, who was instrumental in helping Alana getting the license that allowed her to be able to compete and Naomi Valenza, who allowed Alana’s late entry to be accepted into the tournament.

  

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