Wednesday 22 May, 2019

Justice for Thema: Gymnast wins lawsuit against TTGF

Gymnast Thema Williams has won her multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) after a High Court judge ruled that the Federation acted unfairly after withdrawing her from representing the country at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Justice Frank Seepersad ruled that the TTGF compensate Williams a total of $200,000 in damages - $50,000.00 on account of the loss of opportunity to earn promotional income, as well as $150,000 in exemplary damages. Williams initially sued for TT$11.2 million in damages. 

Seepersad ruled that former TTGF president David Marquez, vice president Akil Wattley, Ricardo Lue Shue and his wife Donna were intrinsically biased against Williams in replacing her with Canadian-born gymnast Marisa Dick, to compete for the Olympic qualifying test event in April 2016.

However Seepersad there was no proof that the defendants were biased in a personal capacity.

Speaking to LoopTT, Williams said that she hopes the judgement sends a message.

“I accept the judgement, I’m fine with that, but more importantly I hope this sends a message to the Federation about acting with bias. I think it’s important for them to know that your actions have consequences and will have an effect on gymnasts, and not just them but the sport itself. So I hope this sends a message to them.”

Moving forward, Williams said she is glad it’s over.

“I’m just going to focus on my education which is what I’ve been doing, and continue as normal. Life goes on, and I’m thankful that it’s finally over,” she said.

(Video: Williams performs at the 2015 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships)

Seepersad said in his judgement that aside from the loss of opportunity, Williams also suffered mental distress from the ordeal.

“It is evident that the Claimant suffered mental distress, hurt and humiliation when she was replaced and her sense of disappointment would have been immeasurable. The joy of Olympic representation which should have resonated within the hearts of every citizen, was curtailed as many citizens were shocked, upset and disappointed with the Claimant’s sudden removal.”

Seepersad also ruled on a stay of execution on payment for 28 days, with interest accruing at the statutory rate of interest from the date of the judgment until payment.

Williams was represented by Martin Daly SC, Keith Scotland and instructed by Reza Ramjohn.

The TTGF was represented by attorney Justin Junkere and Marquez, Wattley and the Lue Shues were represented by Ramesh L. Maharaj SC, Ronnie Bissessar and instructed by Varin Gopaul-Gosine.


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