Stephen Ellison

Cal Gymnast is First to Compete For Team Jamaica

When Toni-Ann Williams heads to the Rio Games later this summer, she will be the first female gymnast from Cal to compete in the the Olympics. She will also be the first to do so for her parents' home country, Jamaica.

The 20-year-old from Maryland is a dual citizen and is looking forward to enhancing that link to her family's native land.

"It was something that I could contribute to my homeland and my family and be able to connect with them," Williams said.

That's not to say she isn't feeling a little anxious, being a pioneer athlete for an entire country.

"I definitely have some moments during the day that I realize the whole country is looking to me for this sport," Williams said. "It's definitely a lot of pressure."

Cal head coach Justin Howell is also Jamaica's Olympic coach. He said he never could have imagined going to the Olympics with the Caribbean island nation.

"To have the experience to go with an athlete that deserves so very much to be there and to be her coach is quite an honor," Howell said.

Cal associate head coach Elizabeth Crandell-Howell agreed, adding that Williams doesn't realize how good she is. "When she experiences these moments of something amazing happening, to her it's all new and exciting," Crandell-Howell said.

For her part, Williams is staying focused on trying to inspire a country and its children as she prepares for Rio.

"I want kids to realize there is more to life than just track and field or not going to college," Williams said, "and definitely using gymnastics as an opportunity to open doors for them."

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