Danyella Richards made her Commonwealth Games debut this year in Birmingham, becoming the first female gymnast to represent Jamaica at the Commonwealth Games, and she was mentored by fellow Jamaican gymnast Reiss Beckford, who has previously competed for England and Great Britain. In July, Danyella competed at the Pan American Championships in Brazil, and she had her first international competition last year at CentoAmericano. For her training, Danyella attends Tumblebees in Florida, and she is set to compete at the Pan American Championships in 2023 and is hoping to compete at the World Championships in Liverpool later this year. Answering our questions, Danyella told us about her Commonwealth Games debut in Birmingham, becoming the first female gymnast to represent Jamaica at the Commonwealth Games and competing at the Pan American Championships in July.
What was it like competing at your first Commonwealth Games this year in Birmingham and being part of a major international multi-sports event?
It was an unforgettable experience. Being able to interact with people from different countries and different sports opened my eyes to a whole new world.
You made history by being the first female Jamaican gymnast to compete at the Commonwealth Games, how did you feel finding out you’d been selected for the team and how was it representing Team Jamaica at the Games?
When I found out, I was filled with excitement but also with nerves because I wanted to go out there and represent my country in the best way possible. Representing Jamaica was a lifelong dream coming true. It was everything I hoped it would be and more.
How did you find the experience staying in the athletes village and attending the opening/closing ceremony?
I really enjoyed staying in the village. Being able to walk around the village and see the athletes I’ve idolised as a kid up to now was incredible. They had a lot of resources provided for the athletes.
How did you prepare for the Commonwealth Games and how was it competing at the Arena Birmingham?
I practiced all summer and never missed a day of practice. I trained from 4:30pm to 8:30pm from Monday to Friday. All that practice was worth it because competing at the Arena Birmingham was a surreal moment. The crowd was amazing and being able to go out there with the girls from other countries that I had met while being there was fun.
What was it like being mentored by Jamaican gymnast Reiss Beckford, who had previously competed at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and 2018?
Having Reiss Beckford as a mentor to walk me through my first Commonwealth Games was definitely the right decision. I’ve known him since I was ten so we were already familiar with each other. I am so grateful for Reiss because he really made my first Commonwealth Games memorable. He was my coach but also like a big brother and we were able to have fun in such a nerve-racking experience.
In July, you competed at the Pan American Championships in Brazil, how was this?
It was one of my first big international competitions so there definitely were a lot of nerves but I had a lot of fun with my teammates. It was also my first time competing with this team so it was a great bonding experience. As a team we went out there and did our best.
Can you tell us about your time in Rio de Janeiro and how was the atmosphere at the competition?
The atmosphere in Rio was also amazing. After the competition, we explored popular sites such as Christ the Redeemer, Escadaria Selaron and Sugarloaf.
What are some of your favourite memories from competing at both the Commonwealth Games and the Pan American Championships?
The support I received from my family, friends and Team Jamaica. Knowing I had that many people rooting for me gave me a feeling of comfort. Another memory is just getting to see all the other athletes compete, making new friends and definitely the crowd from the Arena Birmingham, they were so supportive through the whole competition.
How did you feel joining the Jamaica National Team earlier this year?
It’s an honour. I’ve dreamed of it ever since I was a little girl, so seeing my dreams start to become a reality is surreal. I’ve had a lot of support from the President of Jamaica Gymnastics, Nicole Grant-Brown. She has been very accommodating towards me as an athlete.
How was it competing at the CentroAmericano in October 2021 for your first international competition?
This competition for me was kind of like dipping my toes in a new environment and seeing if competing internationally was something that I wanted to do and I decided that it definitely was.
Where does your love of gymnastics come from and how did you get into it?
I was a very active child and did every sport you could think of. Gymnastics just kind of stuck with me because of how much I enjoyed it. One of my role models as I was growing up was Gabby Douglas. Seeing her story as a young black gymnast inspired me. I saw her and I said if she can do it, I can do it. So definitely seeing Gabby go through all those hardships and still persevere and accomplish her goals lit a fire in me.
Is there anything you enjoy most about being an elite gymnast?
I love the opportunities that have been presented to me through being an elite gymnast. Getting to travel to different places and to meet new people who are as passionate about competing for their country as I am.
What’s it like training with Tumblebees in Florida and can you tell us what your typical training day looks like?
Tumblebees is truly home. I love my teammates and my coaches they are always super supportive of my goals and push me to pursue them. I have practice from 4:30pm to 8:30pm right after I finish school every day.
Have you been given any advice over your time competing as a gymnast so far that has stuck with you?
Over the years, I have been given a lot of great advice. One that has really stuck with me is that no matter how sucky life gets, always stick with the goal you set out to do and to go through life with positivity because it truly makes a difference.
Do you have any competitions coming up or have any that you are targeting that you can tell us about?
Yes, I have the Pan American Games next year in May and I’m working really hard to make it to the World Championships.
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