Gymnastics never really hit the radar in Cayman until a few years ago when Motions Unlimited started producing athletes able to compete internationally.
Morgan Lloyd is one such athlete. At 16, she is already a world-class competitor.
Morgan has been into gymnastics since she was 18 months old. Her two siblings started young too.
“We started all three of our children in gymnastics so young because it was an activity we could do inside a great facility while staying out of the heat,” said her father Kevin. “Morgan has always loved it and if she could, would live in the gymnastics hall.”
Morgan said, “I love gymnastics because it is such a tough sport and it’s very rewarding.”
Her mom Lyne has always had an interest in gymnastics but never had any formal training. Both parents were high school sprinters and her father played hockey.
Morgan has had a significant number of coaches who have helped her develop over the years. Kelley Paz has been her main coach for the past three years, including for the two Island Games where Morgan excelled.
“The Motions facility is a gem here in Cayman,” said Lyne. “We have traveled extensively to many gyms, and in most aspects it compares very favorably.”
She said gym owners Michael and Sandra Alberga should be commended for their foresight in building the facility and for their support of Morgan’s aspirations and development.
“Coming from a small island, this has been extremely important,” she added. “The coaches hired by Motions are extremely competent. The fact that the ratio of coaches to athletes is relatively smaller than in larger gyms allows the gymnasts at Motions to benefit from individual coaching.”
The Motions club is on Sparkys Drive. Its program has historically been focused on the USA Gymnastics model, with training, development and competitions focused on the USAG code of points.
Around four years ago, Cayman gymnasts began competing in international events under the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG) code.
The Cayman Islands Gymnastics Association has carefully identified international competition opportunities for Morgan and the rest of the Cayman national team.
Her first FIG event was the Island Games in Bermuda in 2013. At that meet, the Cayman team befriended a Canadian judge, Pam Collett.
Through the support of the CIGA, Morgan has been able to benefit from Collett’s feedback on a regular basis through video assessments, annual coaching clinics and intense coaching sessions leading up to significant international competitions such as the Pan American Junior Championships, Youth Olympics and Pan American Games.
Morgan has had Canadian coaches for the first two competitions – Adrianna Forde and Collett stepped in to coach her at the Pan Am Games last month. Coach Paz was preparing the remaining Cayman gymnasts at Motions for the Island Games.
Morgan was born in Cayman of Canadian parents, who have lived here since 1991 and have gained Caymanian status. She was a Cayman Prep pupil and has just completed her GCSEs, gaining eight passes, all with honors. She received the Female Sportsperson of the Year award for 2015 at Prep.
For someone so young, she has already gained plenty of international experience.
At last year’s Pan Am Junior Championships in Brazil, she secured the sixth of nine spots in the Americas region to qualify for the Youth Olympic Games.
At the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in China, she achieved the second-highest execution score on the floor exercise, finishing 30th overall in qualifiers, ahead of gymnasts from such powerhouses as China, Japan and Korea. She achieved personal bests on the vault, floor and all-around.
At the Pan Am Games in Toronto last month, Morgan qualified for the all-around finals competition, finishing 23rd overall.
She also achieved the CIGA qualifying score during the all-around finals to qualify for the world championships in Glasgow in October.
At the International Island Games in Wales last month, she earned two bronze medals for Cayman, on floor and bars.
Her greatest achievement to date was qualifying for the all-around finals at the Pan Am Games.
She suffered a torn iliopsoas (hip) muscle while competing in Montreal in March and was not able to return to full training until mid-June.
She was unsure if she would even be able to compete at the Pan Ams, but overcame the mental and physical rust to not only compete, but also to qualify for the all-around finals.
To top it off, she achieved a personal best score to qualify for the world championships.
The Lloyd family said they were grateful to the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee for being so supportive during Morgan’s recovery leading up to the Pan Ams.
Morgan’s injury jeopardized her ability to compete, but the Olympic Committee kept her options open and allowed her to take part in the opening ceremony even if she was unable to compete, since the family was attending the gymnastics events in Toronto whether or not she competed. This inspired her.
At the upcoming World Gymnastics Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, her ambition is to do well enough to attend the Olympic Trials in Rio next April.
It is certainly a hectic time for the teenager. She will complete her final two years of high school in Canada at Ashbury College and is now being coached by Alfredo Solis at the Ottawa Gymnastics Centre.
Solis has more than 30 years of gymnastics experience, including serving as the national coach for the Mexican Olympic Committee.
Besides regular schoolwork, Morgan has to put in at least 22 hard hours of training a week in Ottawa.
She is focusing on both increasing her difficulty score on each apparatus, as well as continuing to fine-tune her routines. In terms of other sports, she has also done very well in the inter-school track and field meets, competing in 100 meter, 200m and 800m races.
Dad Kevin said, “Morgan is fortunate to have the opportunities she has in Cayman and to have such great support from Motions, CIGA, CIOC, her coaches and her teachers.
“She works extremely hard at her schoolwork and her gymnastics and puts both of these things ahead of any downtime she could have.
“We are proud of her determination and encourage her to continue to follow her dream.”
Her potential is certainly not misguided.
Former Olympic and world champion Nellie Kim, in an article from the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, was asked which gymnasts from nontraditional medal-winning countries impressed her.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the gymnasts from the Cayman Islands and from the Philippines,” Kim said. “Ava Lorein Verdeflor [Philippines] has modern exercises and she was even in the all-around and uneven bars apparatus finals. A first for her country. And Morgan Lloyd is the first gymnast from the Cayman Islands that ever participated at the Olympic Games.”