Reiss Beckford, a three-time European Champion and three-time Commonwealth silver medalist from South Essex Gymnastics Club announced on January 1, 2015 that he will no longer be competing for Great Britain and England. The 23-year-old Britain elite gymnast of Jamaican descent said he would instead use his valuable knowledge and experience to begin competing for Jamaica, where he also holds citizenship, to help develop gymnastics in the country.
Though he is eligible to compete for Jamaica; he will have to earn a place on the team just like anyone else. Last Friday, the former Great Britain star flew to Trinidad & Tobago for Jamaica’s inaugural national trials with South Essex coach Jeff Davis to compete for a spot on Jamaica National Gymnastics Team to this winter’s World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland as well as the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil. Beckford aims to become Jamaica’s first ever Olympic Gymnast.
“A massive thank you to Jamaican Gymnastics for this opportunity. And a huge thank you to Scott Hann and Jeff Davis for coaching me and getting me to where I am today,” said an elated Beckford, after placing first in the all-around event and also on all other pieces of apparatus except pommel, where he was second. He’s is now awaiting an official confirmation that he has qualified for a place at the eagerly-anticipated World Championship in Scotland, which gets underway in October.
The Basildon-based gymnast grandparents on his dad’s side emigrated from Kingston, Jamaica in the 50’s. As a boy, his granddad would always jokingly suggests that he should compete for Jamaica one day; being that he’s always competing for Great Britain. “Although I’ve always had dual nationality, at a young age I thought he was just being silly and [thought] that it wasn’t possible,” Reiss revealed. “However, last year I was approached by a woman named Marlene who is the team manager for the Jamaican gymnastics and she asked if I’d like to compete for Jamaica,” he confessed.
Beckford says he “didn’t think much of it” until after he found out about the Jamaica Amateur Gymnastics Association (JAGA) and that Marlene’s daughter had competed in the 2011 World Championships in Japan. He declared it was then the possibilities and opportunities became clear to him, especially after discovering that he was eligible to compete for Jamaica.
Reiss has been training for many years under the watchful eye of coach Scott Hann, alongside double Olympic medallist Max Whitlock and Junior European Champions Brinn Bevan and Jay Thompson. Reiss was an extremely successful junior gymnast. At the 2010 Junior European Championships, he took gold with the British team and bronze on rings and high bar. In that same year, he went on to compete at the Commonwealth Games for England and won silver in the Team Artistic, All-around event and Floor Exercise.
Toni-Ann, Reiss, Caleb and Danusia are four talented international gymnasts who have dreamed of representing Jamaica at the Olympic Games since they were very young. This year is their first opportunity to try and achieve that goal! Please consider helping out these talented and well deserving athletes go for their dreams! Fund them here!
These talented and hard working young gymnasts have put in many hours and, as a result, experienced various levels of success throughout their careers including All-Around Champion and Individual Apparatus Awards. Toni-Ann, Caleb and Danusia are full-time students of the University of California Berkeley, University of Iowa and the University of California Los Angeles respectively).