Most college students simply want to balance their class schedule and a social life. Toni-Ann Williams set out to balance college life, not just as a student-athlete, but also a world class one — and in the process made history for Jamaica.
Toni-Ann, born in the United States to immigrant parents, grew up in Maryland and joined the Jamaican National Team in 2010.
She went to the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo with the hope of advancing to the 2012 Test Event and, hopefully, onto the London Games. But that desire didn’t materialize when she fell short of the qualifying score.
She kept going, competing at Worlds again in 2013. And after graduating high school in 2014, she enrolled at the University of California — a school she’s stated she chose because of its understanding and support of both her collegiate and international gymnastics goals. In turn, she has been a key member of that team’s rapid rise back to national competitiveness.
Following the 2015 NCAA season, her freshman year, Toni-Ann began training for the World Championships in Glasgow with the intention of qualifying to the Rio Test event. But this time she would have company: her younger sister, Maya, and fellow NCAA gymnast Danusia Francis.
During the qualification round, Toni-Ann (93rd) placed behind Danusia (66th). However, the decision was made by the Jamaican gym federation to give the 1 Test Event spot the team earned to Toni-Ann as she has been competing longer for the nation. It was also unclear if Danusia’s change of country for representation (she’s a British national) would have been in effect long enough for the International Olympic Committee to deem valid.
After Worlds, Toni-Ann decided to compete the 2016 NCAA season instead of deferring. That meant helping her team to its first Nationals appearance in over 20 years. However, it also meant not being able to enjoy those particular fruits of labor. The Rio Test Event and NCAA Nationals were both held on the weekend of April 16-17.
But somehow, I don’t think she minds. After all, she has two more years of eligibility left to help Cal reach even greater heights it already has — and she doesn’t have to wait another 4 years to do it.
Full List of Caribbean Gymnast Qualifiers to the 2016 Rio Games
Marcia Vidiaux (Cuba)
Manrique Larduet (Cuba)
Randy Leru (Cuba)
Toni-Ann Williams (Jamaica)
Marisa Dick (Trinidad & Tobago)
Photo Credit: University of California Athletics Department