The members of Jamaica’s gymnastics teams and their coaches returned from the Senior Pan American Championships held in Lima, Peru, in September 2018, after making sports history by having two teams, both men’s and women’s team, competing at the event. Reiss Beckford, Stephen Lewis, Danusia Francis and Mackenzie Robinson were part of the seven-member team Kiara Richmon, 16, qualified to compete as a member of the Jamaica National Gymnastics Team in early 2018, as both of her parents, Patrice and John Richmon, were born in Jamaica. Caleb Faulkner and Nicholas Tai were also team members.
The head coach and owner of Newnan School of Gymnastics, Cricket Shelnutt, who already worked with Kiara Richmon as her coach, also worked with the Jamaican team and went to Peru with them. Shelnutt was one of two coaches chosen by the Jamaica Gymnastics Federation to coach the team. His gym was opened to train five members of the national team during the summer of 2018. He also worked with the team during their training in the Dominica Republic earlier in the year.
Although Jamaica’s national team did not bring home any medals from the Senior Pan Am Games, the participation of both men’s and women’s teams was historic, and according to Shelnutt, was accomplished through generous donations from families at Newnan School of Gymnastics. The donations totaled over $4,000 and helped send the team to the prestigious Pan Am event.
Teams from bigger countries receive funding for travel necessities, he said, and all their expenses are paid through governing sports bodies, like USA Gymnastics. The Jamaican teams are dependent on individuals for support. Next on their agenda, the gymnastics team will travel to Qatar to participate in the World Championships, a very expensive trip, according to Shelnutt. Contributions to help support the trip to Qatar in October 2028 can be made at Newnan School of Gymnastics.
Nicole Grant-Brown, president of the National Gymnastics Federation, stated, The Pan Am Championships was a success for Jamaica; we are very excited that the teams competed well to qualify with four spots for Jamaica to the Pan Am Games in 2019.”