Two-time world championships competitor Toni-Ann Williams of Jamaica is enjoying her first season of U.S. collegiate competition as a member of the University of California-Berkeley team.
Two-time world championships competitor Toni-Ann Williams of Jamaica is enjoying her first season of U.S. collegiate competition as a member of the University of California-Berkeley team, but she looks forward to continuing her international career.
Williams, who was born in Baltimore, holds dual citizenship. Prior to enrolling at the University of California-Berkeley last fall, she trained at United Gymnastix in Reisterstown, Maryland, where her coaches were 2000 Bulgarian Olympian Mladen Stefanov and Kari Barnes.
Her coaches at California are Justin Howell (head coach) and his wife, former U.S. national team member Elisabeth Crandall-Howell (associate head coach).
IG spoke with Williams after her team's meet at UCLA on February 1, where she placed first on vault and second on floor exercise. Based on her performances there, Williams was named Freshman/Newcomer of the Week for the third consecutive week in the Pacific 12 Conference. She is the second gymnast to win the honor three times, and the first to win it three consecutive times.
In this interview, Williams describes her new life as a student-athlete, and her potential for future international competitions including the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Williams on beam for Cal-Berkeley
IG: How has your transition to collegiate gymnastics been so far?
: It's been so much fun. I honestly feel it's like summer camp, but then, school is everything, so I'm like, “OK, maybe not so much like summer camp!” I love the team. Everyone is so inviting. They've welcomed me, and it's been an awesome ride so far.
IG: What classes are you taking this semester, and what major do you have in mind?
: I'm taking Nutritional Science, Brain Mind and Behavior, and classes like that. Right now I'm trying to get through everything and see what I like. I'm taking different classes, so I'm not sure right now what my major will be.
IG: What caused the problem you had on beam (at UCLA on February 1)?
IG: I've been struggling with my groin muscle. It's been a little rough on beam. I missed my leap pass, but we came together and finished solidly. I'm going to get back in the gym and work harder. It's just a passing injury, like those injuries that are a little annoying. You just have to take care of it to make sure it doesn't get worse.
IG: How are you maintaining your high-level skills, considering that you are training only 20 hours per week (per NCAA rules)?
: I feel I've had a lot of preparation in club gymnastics, to kind of get my skills so I don't have to do too many numbers, and be able to compete them fine. We spin a lot and get in a lot of cardio outside the gym, and that really helps maintain.
IG: What are your plans for international competitions, such as this fall's worlds and next year's Olympics?
: Definitely worlds this year - and the Olympics, hopefully. I'm going to try my best, and give 100 percent, and whatever happens, happens. Justin and Liz are really open about my training for international competitions, and they're really supportive about it.
IG: How do your college coaches compare to your club coaches?
: Club and college coaches are way different, but I love Justin and Liz. They're amazing. They're like the dynamic duo. You get one thing from one, and another thing from the other, and it's an amazing balance.
IG: In which ways has your gymnastics changed, physically and mentally, since last year?
: I feel I've improved a lot. I've learned more about myself mentally, and I prep for competitions every single weekend, which is something I'm not used to. There's still room for improvement, obviously, but it's been a great experience. I've helped my gymnastics both physically and mentally. Read “Jamaican-American,” an interview with Williams in the March 2014 issue of International Gymnast magazine; and "Back from the Brink," a feature on the University of California-Berkeley program, in the October 2014 issue. To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital editions of International Gymnast magazine, click here.