PORT OF SPAIN –– Gymnast Thema Williams has initiated her lawsuit against the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF), seeking TT$11.38 million compensation for its alleged “harsh and oppressive” actions against her which caused her dream of qualifying for the upcoming Olympic Games to be shattered.
Williams’ legal team filed the lawsuit in which they are seeking damages for her “loss of opportunity” and damage to her personal and professional reputation allegedly caused by the actions of the federation’s executive, in the Port of Spain High Court Thursday afternoon.
They contend by failing to be given an opportunity to qualify for the upcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, she suffered a huge loss of opportunity of endorsements, motivational speaking engagements and repeated business opportunities as well as a full scholarship to the Michigan State University, which she forewent in her bid to represent Trinidad and Tobago at event.
Speaking with media personnel outside the Hall of Justice, Knox Street, Port of Spain, the 20-year-old said she was forced to take the legal action because the federation acted “unjustly and unfairly” towards her. She said that their action did not only affect her by Trinidad and Tobago’s international reputation in sport.
When asked if she was willing to represent Trinidad and Tobago if given an opportunity in the future, Williams said: “It definitely has because I feel that these are the things people speak about when talking about T&T being a backward country. As an athlete I don’t think we should be put in this position. It is absolutely embarrassing and it was displayed to the entire world.”
She said the situation has also make her reconsider her future in international competitive gymnastics. “I am still caught up in the situation emotionally. Going back has been completely difficult when I think of the situation again,” Williams said.
She also said that she had attempted to re-obtain her scholarship to continue her education but was having difficulties doing so.
The controversial dispute between the athlete and the federation began after Williams was replaced to this country at the Olympic Test Event at Rio de Janeiro in April. Her selection was based on her performance at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championship in Glasgow, Scotland on October 23, last year.
Williams claimed that her coach John Geddert was informed by the federation that she was withdrawn because she was injured, a claim which she denies. Alternate athlete Marisa Dick was selected to participate in the event instead and eventually qualified becoming the first person to represent Trinidad and Tobago in gymnastics at the Olympics.
In February, photographs of both Williams and Dick posing topless were posted on social media websites and were sent to the federation. The photos were allegedly broadcast by the mother of another gymnast, who claimed that they should not represent Trinidad and Tobago.
A date for the hearing of Williams’ lawsuit is expected to be set when the 2016/2017 Law Term opens in September. Williams’ legal team includes Martin Daly, SC and Keith Scotland.