Artistic gymnast Danyella Holmes braces for challenge in pursuit of Olympic dream
Artistic gymnast Danyella Holmes always yearned to represent Jamaica on the big stage, but she bided her time and did the necessary work until she found superior form that caught the attention of those concerned.
Her big break eventually came last year, and not once, but twice. In the space of a few months Holmes — who many in gymnastic circles knew as Danyella Richards before the legal name change — gracefully strutted her stuff with much gusto first taking the international stage at the Pan American Gymnastics Championships in Brazil, and later achieving the feat of being the country’s first woman to compete at the Commonwealth Games, in Birmingham.
Describing the feeling of debuting on two of the biggest gymnastics platforms as a dream come true, Holmes, 18, is now left hungry for more in her budding career, with qualification to the Paris 2024 Games topping her quest for this season.
“I am very excited for the upcoming season and as always, I am ready to hit the ground running in my preparations. I know what I have to do physically and mentally to accomplish my goals. It’s going to take consistency at practice, lots of repetition of my skills and, of course, I know I have to give more than 100 per cent at practice while doing solid routines every day,” Holmes told the Jamaica Observer from her base in the United States.
“This year, I definitely am going to have more confidence in myself and develop better relaxation skills before competitions which will allow me to be less anxious. I am also going to make sure I take care of my body by virtue of strength work, particularly, through physical therapy, so as to avoid any injuries which is most important,” she added.
At the Commonwealth Games, Holmes, who was guided by English-born Jamaican male gymnast Reiss Beckford in her performances, won the heart of the crowd in the arena each time she took on another apparatus as she did, in fact, better the 43.400 she tallied at the Pan Am Championships.
She scored 12.300 on vault, her lowest score 9.900 on the uneven bars, before bouncing back to score 10.250 on balance beam and 11.150 on floor to end with a total of 43.600 in the individual all-around competition. She placed 24th overall and just missed out on qualification.
That for Holmes was the pinnacle of what she said was a difficult, but very fulfilling, 2022 season.
“I committed to my dream college [Long Island University] and was able to build my confidence through competing internationally. Representing Jamaica had long been something I dreamed about and it was everything I hoped it would be and more,” Holmes noted.
“But there were also some challenges that I encountered along the way, including a fall on bars and biting through my bottom lip which required several stitches a week before the Pan American Championships, and I also lost my grandmother to cancer, which took a huge toll on me,” she shared.
Still, Holmes, like any athlete who boasts an unwavering desire to be the best in their field, has mastered the art of using life’s challenges to fuel her appetite for success.
“One of the things I have learnt along the way is to stick with my goal no matter how challenging life becomes. I am also a great believer in going through life with positivity because that really makes a difference.
“So both good and especially bad times have taught me that no matter the obstacle, keep pushing towards your goals. Those obstacles have helped me grow not only into a stronger person but also as a better gymnast [because] no matter how well you do, you can always be better. So there is always more work to be done,” she declared.
With international experience now under her belt Holmes is positive about her prospects this season, which gets under way next month with the National Trials on local soil.
There is also the Pan American Championships in May which serves as a qualifier for the Pan American Games, as well as the World Championships in October.
Holmes, along with British-born sisters Tyesha and China Mattis, and Jamilia Duffus, are also down to compete at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games, also scheduled for October.
But her biggest goal remains to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games where she would join American-based Toni-Ann Williams and recently retired British-born Danusia Francis as the only gymnasts to achieve the feat.
“I first need to be a strong competitor at the National Trials, which would allow me to compete at the Olympic Qualifying events. So, like I said, there is still more work to do and I intend to put everything into giving myself the best possible chance to rewrite Jamaica’s gymnastics history,” the TumbleBees Gymnastics representative ended.