By Neto Baptiste
The thought of Antigua and Barbuda competing at a world event in gymnastics may not be as far-fetched as many may think.
This is the shared sentiment of husband-and-wife principals involved in the recently-formed Antigua and Barbuda Gymnastics Federation (ABGF), John and Brigitte Murphy.
The duo, who also runs the Antigua Gymnastics Club (AGC), which has been in existence since 2006, recently appeared on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show in an effort to build support for the sport here.
John explained the genesis of the club and the formation of the new federation in 2019.
“We have the Antigua Gymnastics Club and we are actually the Antigua and Barbuda Gymnastics Federation so we’re the governing body which means we carry all of the responsibility for the training aspects of competitive gymnastics and we have now got the club underneath that which is where we are supporting the athletes at this point in time,” he said.
“There are seven board members at the moment in myself, my wife [Brigitte Murphy] and then we have other board members that were instrumental in setting up the club as well, 16 years ago, so as a federation, we just formed that because we need to be recognised by FIG which is Federation of International Gymnastics in Switzerland and that is so that we could get to the Olympics or the Worlds,” he added.
The local federation could wait up to six months for approval from the international body, after which, they could seek membership with the National Olympic Committee (NOC) here.
Brigitte assured however, that the body continues to train and prepare athletes, pointing to the acquiring of Canadian coaches, Alex and Jess Schlosser, as a move in the right direction.
“We made two trips to Ireland actually where we took children, and then again, we took some children to Canada to do some more training and things like that. We’ve also had USC Gymnastics who have sent us coaches to help with the training and support acrobatics because gymnastics has different sessions. There is artistic gymnastics in terms of women and men. Alex and Jess are now doing women’s artistic gymnastics, which is girls doing bars, beams, floor and bolt. There is also an acrobatic side which is when they work with partners. There is also rhythmic which is when the gymnasts work with ribbons,” she said.
Alex, a former gymnast turned coach, gave a good assessment of what he has seen thus far, explaining that most have some knowledge coming in at the junior level.
“The kids are really focused on improving, their recreation classes offer a great foundation for them so when they come in they have a lot of the preset requirements to get involved in competitive. We start off from level one all the way to level 10 so we have about nine kids going to Canada in May for a competition and five of those athletes are competing at level one and four of them are competing as level two athletes,” the coach said.
The Antigua Gymnastics Club currently has a membership of close to 200 with afternoon classes from Monday to Friday and morning classes on Saturdays. The club is located in Coolidge.