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Jamaica’s Francis: Tokyo 2020 Is ‘Within My Reach’
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2012 British Olympic team reserve Danusia Francis, who now represents Jamaica, told IG she is confident she can qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games through a good performance at this fall’s World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany.

“Unfortunately Jamaica is not strong to qualify a team yet, but maybe in the future,” said Francis at the March 16 meet at UCLA, for which she competed from 2012-16. “At the moment I’m looking to qualify as an individual, so I would have to be the highest-scoring Jamaican at the World Championships and come in the top certain percentage. As long as I have a good competition, I know that’s within my reach.”

Francis, whose father is Jamaican, began competing for Jamaica in 2015 after contemplating her prospects for the 2020 Games.

“Loads of people were asking me, ‘Are you going to make a comeback? Are you going to go for Tokyo?’ ” she said. “It literally hadn’t even crossed my mind, but then I thought, ‘I have nothing stopping me and I would love to go to Tokyo, and I need to give it a shot.’”

Francis said she was also influenced to resume her international career by the perspective on life shared by UCLA coach Valorie Kondos Field.

“That’s something Miss Val taught me — give it a shot,” said Francis, who trains under coaches Vince and Michele Walduck, and Natalia Ilienko-Jarvis, at Heathrow Gymnastics Club in London. “You have one life to live — don’t live with regrets.”

Francis said she enjoys performing novelty skills such as her dismount combination on balance beam, which consists of a side aerial across the beam into a full twist. She competed this combination at UCLA and restored it to her international routine following a rules change that now credits it.

“Before, you had to have a certain value dismount, but now they’ve changed the rule and the rule is that you have to count your dismount,” said Francis, who has worked as a stuntwoman and doubled for Rita Ora at the 2017 MTV European Music Awards where she performed a somersault into a car. “So I count a full twist, which is the second part of the dismount. I think it’s worth it, having the first part into it, because it’s such a crowd-pleaser and the judges never see it. I’ve competed it a few times now and I’ve gotten the reward back, so it’s really cool.”

Francis also plans to compete a side aerial into a momentary manual hold at the Superstars of Gymnastics event on March 23 at The O2 Arena in London.

“I played with that a little bit and we did send it to the Code of Points to submit it, but they said I would have to hold it for three seconds after to get it named,” she said. “That’s a bit hard, especially under the pressure of a World Championships or other competitions where you can get skills named. So I’m going to do it at Superstars of Gymnastics. I’ll do it there because it will be a crowd-pleaser.”

Francis said her view of gymnastics has changed as she extends her career towards Tokyo.

“As an adult doing gymnastics, I have a completely different perspective,” she said. “It’s more like quality over quantity when it comes to training. Recovery is key.”

Faced with an occasional wane in enthusiasm, Francis said she relies on lessons learned from Kondos Field to keep her motivated.

“When it comes to the days when I maybe don’t want to train, I take on what Miss Val taught me, and that is that I get to do this,” she told IG. “When she was going through chemo (therapy for breast cancer), she was always like, ‘It’s not that I have cancer, it’s that I get to recover from it.’ That’s an outlook on life that I’ve taken on from her. I look at it like get to do gymnastics today.”

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