Francis aims for gymnastics history

Lois Elfman | 4/4/2019, 10:57 a.m.
Danusia Francis made quite the impression at the Superstars of Gymnastics competition held on March 23 in London, England.
Danusia Francis of UCLA UCLA Athletics photos

Danusia Francis made quite the impression at the Superstars of Gymnastics competition held on March 23 in London, England. Videos of the UCLA graduate quickly went viral as people were captivated by her dance moves and a strength maneuver in which she hung upside down underneath the balance beam.

The Superstars event was an exhibition style competition with celebrity judges such as world champion Simone Biles. “They wanted to put gymnastics out there in a fun entertainment way and bit more audience-friendly,” said Francis. Once the athletes made it clear that they wanted the crowd to get loud, the audience got into the spirit. “It was such a great atmosphere,” she added.

The British-born Francis, who represents her father’s homeland of Jamaica on the international scene, began her routines with the victory stance made famous by Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. “He’s my idol and one of the coolest people I’ve ever met,” she said.

Francis, 24, was an alternate to the British Olympic gymnastics team in 2012, and thought her gymnastics days were over. Fans encouraged her to consider U.S. collegiate gymnastics. One thing led to another and she joined the UCLA Bruins, graduating in 2016 after winning a NCAA title in the balance beam, being a six-time All American and garnering two perfect 10s on the beam.

Francis currently works as a recruiter/gymnastics manager for College Sports America, helping international gymnasts get U.S. athletic scholarships. “I had the best time at UCLA, so now to be able to help people hopefully get scholarships is great,” she said.

Representing Jamaica comes with challenges, such as limited funding, but Francis is determined to push forward. Her sights are set on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

“It’s bigger than just my individual goals,” Francis said. “It’s making history pretty much every time we compete. This past World Championships, our team finished last, but it was the first time we ever posted a team score, so that’s incredible. We’re making huge strides and inspiring young boys and girls in Jamaica to take up the sport.”

She added, “The whole Caribbean is like one massive family. To wake up after Superstars of Gymnastics and see my social media buzzing with an overwhelming sense of support and pride from the whole of the Caribbean was a completely different feeling. Knowing I’m part of this trailblazing team is amazing.”