The 2015 Pan Am Games take place from July 10 to July 26 in Toronto, Canada. Pan Ams are a multi-sport games, similar to the Olympics. Like the Asian Games and European Games held earlier this year, this competition is limited to countries within a certain geographical region.
The women’s gymnastics competition starts on July 12 and runs through July 15. (The men start on July 11 and end on the same day as the women.) A lot of attention will be paid to the United States, Canada, Brazil and Mexico, as is fair and expected. But, I want to spotlight some gymnastics nations that usually don’t get a lot of spotlighting. So here are some profiles on the competitors from the Caribbean island nations.
BAHAMAS – Kianna Dean
Kianna, who is currently living in Miami and training at Park Avenue Gymnastics in Cooper City, is the sole Bahamian gymnast in the competition. That wasn’t originally the case. Simone Hall was also selected for the team, but suffered an injury earlier this year.
In order to train, Kianna is taking a hiatus from Western Michigan University where she is majoring in biology in hopes becoming a veterinarian. Her dream is to compete at the World Championships later this year and Olympic Games next year. If she makes one or both, Kianna would be the first female elite gymnast to compete on a World and/or Olympic stage for the Bahamas.
CUBA – Mary Adny Morffi, Leidys Perdomo, Leidys Rojas, Dovelis Torres, Marcia Videaux
Strong vaults are the calling card of this team, especially with Dovelis and Marcia, who is the overall favorite for the event title. While Cuba is the only one of the island nations to send a full team to Canada, their medal hopes were dashed significantly when their lead gymnast Yesenia Ferrera sustained a knee injury at the Anadia World Cup in May.
Despite the blow this is still a very important competition for these five. This year has special significance for the Cuban team as 2015 will see Cuban gymnasts compete at a World Championships or Olympic Games for the first time since Anaheim in 2013 when three gymnasts defected. Since they didn’t compete in 2014, Cuba cannot send a full team to Worlds, only up to three. If healthy, Yesenia will more than likely be on that team. Toronto is undoubtedly a great audition for the others to make an impression on the Cuban federation for a ticket to Glasgow.
PUERTO RICO – Paula Mejias, Nicolle Vazquez
Both competing in their second Pan American Games. Paula is scheduled to compete all four events and Nicolle is only scheduled to compete vault.
Paula is one of Puerto Rico’s most successful gymnasts. Since 2009, Paula has trained at Universal Gymnastics in Miami – most known for being the home of Danell Leyva and Mr. Yeessooo himself, Yin Alvarez. Paula actually earned the country’s 2012 Olympic spot. However, as it was a non-nominative spot, it was the choice of the Puerto Rican Gymnastics Federation who to send, and it was decided that Lorena Quiñones would be the representative at the London Games.
Unfortunately, a number of gymnasts have to leave gymnastics because of injury. Nicolle found gymnastics because of one. A fractured femur at the age of 7 led her doctor to suggest sports participation as a means of rehab. The doctor gave two suggestions: swimming and gymnastics. As fate would have it, the swimming classes were full. Nowadays, Nicolle is balancing gymnastics with university study. She is studying biology with the goal of completing a doctorate in physical therapy one day.
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO – Marisa Dick
Although a born and bred Canadian, Marisa has been competing under the Trinidad & Tobago flag since 2012 due to her mother’s heritage. Not an unknown to the elite gymnastics world, she hopes to help Trinidad and Tobago develop their gymnastics program.
Marisa is a seasoned competitor in Canada with numerous meets under her belt, and has already brought her adopted island nation international success winning a silver on beam and a bronze on vault at the Commonwealth Invitational in Perth, Scotland in 2014. She made the country’s second World Championship appearance in Antwerp, Belgium in 2013 (Thema Williams was the first in 2011).