More Than Just ‘Twisties'
Newsweek|August 20, 2021
An Olympic gymnast says she and her fellow athletes face a lot of challenges in the sport that men don’t
DANUSIA FRANCIS

I’VE NEVER BEEN AS NERVOUS in my life as the day in 2019 I competed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games. Somehow I managed to keep my cool and when it was officially announced that I would be representing Jamaica in gymnastics, it was the best feeling. I was able to finally see my name on that list of qualifiers after years of hard work.

The general public mainly sees gymnastics every four years, and you see the best of the best in their sparkly leotards. It looks very easy at that point. But getting to that place has taken a lot of strength and determination, mentally as well as physically. When I got to Tokyo, I was training with girls from all different countries and the main feeling was one of gratitude to be there. Everyone was so supportive of each other.

Simone Biles and the U.S. team were in my subdivision so we were training with them every day. Her training was incredible leading up to qualification. She’s unbelievable. That’s the closest I’ve been to her gymnastics and your jaw is on the floor when you watch her. However, you can see during her vault in the team final that she got lost and she’s so lucky that she’s so innately spatially aware and strong that she didn’t hurt herself.

I left after competing in the uneven bars on July 25 because I tore my ACL, but I can’t imagine how much that shook her up in that moment, being unsure if that was going to happen again and potentially get a low score and take the team out of medals. Also there’s the risk of injury. There are some people out there calling her a quitter and saying that it’s a team competition and why did she “quit.” That is not what she did. She made the best decision for the team and then she came back out and was cheering them all on and getting them chalk.

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