Former UCLA gymnast Danusia Francis believes postponed Olympics will be even better

After waiting 12 years to make her Olympic dream come true, Danusia Francis doesn’t mind waiting for another.

Even after the International Olympic Committee’s Tuesday decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympics to 2021 amid the coronavirus outbreak, the former UCLA gymnast competes under the Olympic rings, wrapping herself in the Jamaican flag and seeing her family shine in the stands will still be as sweet as she always dreamed.

“I will enjoy the experience regardless of the year,” said Francis in a telephone interview from London.

For Francis, the 2016 NCAA Balance Team co-champion and a six-time All-American at UCLA, the Olympics are likely to be her last gymnastics experience. After qualifying for the Olympics as an individual representative of Jamaica in 2019, the 25-year-old planned to leave the sport after Tokyo this year. But she is willing to give her body another strenuous year of training to achieve a childhood dream.

“Another year on your body is a lot of pain, a lot of hard work,” said Francis, “but another good year is another year to get stronger, another year to gain more confidence or new skills.”

With news of Tuesday’s postponement raising more questions than immediate answers for most athletes, Francis calls her position “privileged” because she already qualified for the Games. She hit her ticket at the 2019 World Championships by finishing among the top 20 individuals in the all-round not in a qualifying team. She was ninth in the group of individuals and 47th overall.

The moment was “a dream come true,” said Francis, having come twice as close.

Before coming to UCLA, Francis trained for the 2012 Games and was a substitute for Great Britain. Half Jamaican and half Polish, but born in England, Francis started competing for Jamaica in 2015, when she returned to elite, Olympic gymnastics to help Jamaica earn a spot at the Olympic testing event. But Francis was not chosen to participate in the final qualifying phase. Instead, countrywoman Toni-Ann Williams, a former California gymnast, became the first Jamaican woman to qualify for the Olympics in gymnastics.

After a chaotic start to the year when Francis suffered from nagging injuries and balancing work as a stunt double with training, the former UCLA star began to regain full strength. She began practicing routines with great difficulty and, she said, was “on track” to peak at the Olympics.

Danusia Francis celebrates with a Jamaican flag after her floor exercise routine at the Superstars of Gymnastics in March 2019.

(Naomi Baker / Getty Images)

When matches she planned to attend in Italy and Spain were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she realized how terrible the situation was going to be.

Francis’ gym was closed last weekend, but her coach and other athletes started virtual home sessions together this week. They add much-needed structure in the uncertain times, said Francis, whose fiancé has a gym.

When there is an official date for the rescheduled Olympics, Francis will meet her coaches and draw up a plan for competitions to participate. According to the IOC, the Games will be held in Tokyo no later than next summer.

Francis hopes it is sooner than later. She planned to have a wedding later in the year.

“In the long run, you can move your wedding, but you can’t move the Olympics a second time,” Francis said, grinning.

The pandemic is “just negative for the whole world,” Francis said, but when she ponders what she hopes her Olympic experience will be – whenever that happens – she remembers a message she saw recently. It said, “the Olympic flame may be the light at the end of the tunnel.”

“I really believe that,” said Francis. “It will be such a great way to celebrate the arrival of the other side of this epidemic. I hope that although delayed it can be the light at the end of the tunnel and just be even more amazing than this year. ”

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