Seven young ladies, ages 7 – 13 years old, represented Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in New York City on January 25th and 26th and performed quite well, as virtual debutantes in the annual gymnastics competition there.
Ariel Fraser, Shamara Pereira, Katriel Bailey, Chiamaka Jackson, Leanna Bailey, Myracle Doyle and Azaria Lewis were Vincentian sport ambassadors, at their first major competition, since beginning to train as young gymnasts.
Lewis was undoubtedly the star of the meet as she emerged at the top of the “over 3700 kids who competed.” Lewis flipped and tumbled her way to 1st place on the vault, bars, and beam and was awarded 1st place all round for her age group in level 2. “The kids push the parents more than anything…”
Assistant Coach Kerry Williams said in an ANN exclusive interview, when asked how do parents recognize young Lewis’ level of talent in their own offspring. “Her parents really didn’t – they just knew she, was always on her hands and feet and flipping around and begging them to bring her to gymnastics and they finally did… and she really did perform well.
This was her first big competition on a stage like this so it just goes to show the talent that’s in SVG and there’s more to come,” he added further of the young athlete who’ve been training at the Dolphin Gym for not quite a year. Being in the Big City was in itself a challenge, furthermore, it really required the young sports ambassadors to focus.
Coach Kerry said “This was our first time in New York competing… we had quite a few girls who have family in New York but never competed here.
We discussed with them about mental imaging, breathing and focusing exercises…drills we do in St. Vincent…after the first event, usually, the girls settle down and perform fine… all in all, we did very well…overcoming the fears that all kids usually have when you’re competing on a big stage like this.” Despite the challenges Shamara Pereira placed 3rd on the vault, beam and floor events and came in 4th all round, in her age group.
Katriel Bailey also snagged the 3rd place spot for her attempts on the beam and on the floor and was deemed the 7th best competitor all round. Chiamaka Jackson again snagged the 3rd place spot on the podium for her performance on the beam and 5th for the floor event and placed 7th all-round. Meanwhile Myracle Doyle came in 7th in her floor event.
In her group, Leanna Bailey placed 6th on the vault, 3rd for her beam work, 5th floor and was adjudged 8th all-round.
All seasoned athletes, these 4 gymnasts “compete at a higher level,” we were told. Head Coach LaPrise Williams was expansive in her appreciation of the athletes’ potential and said “the competition was very tough and we held our own. This tournament was a real eye opener for our athletes.
I was pleased to see that with more training all of our girls would easily make the podium. Travelling out of country is essential to SVG’s gymnastics moving forward. Overall both Kerry and I are very proud of our girls.” Coach LaPrise also said “all of our gymnasts are currently preparing to compete in future Pan American Gymnastics events that will be qualifiers for the international competitions hosted by the international governing body.
” Up next for the team is the 2nd Annual Coconut Classic which is hosted by St Vincent Dolphin Gymnastics and Health Academy, located in Arnos Vale at the old Mustique Hangar, behind the Technical College. Slated for February 22 of this year, Coach Kerry said “the gymnastic contest has already attracted competitors from Trinidad, Antigua, Barbados and Jamaica.” LaPrise and Kerry extend gratitude to all of their corporate and private partners, who’ve banded together to make the 2nd Annual Coconut Classic another successful celebration of Vincy youth.