At the start of Simone’s famed “GOAT Tour” Melanie de Jesus dos Santos, one of the gymnasts participating in the event posted her travel itinerary to social media. Melanie competes for France and is one of Europe’s most popular gymnasts, if not the single biggest draw of the the entire French program.
But one small detail regarding Melanie that many are aware of, she is not from European France, but rather a small Caribbean island called Martinique which is sovereign French territory in the same way Hawaii is part of the United States. Melanie’s geographical background and the unique location of her hometown has rarely caused a significant disruption to her gymnastics career. That was until Simone’s GOAT Tour which required Melanie to travel from Martinique to Tucson, Arizona.
The milage alone was daunting. At 3,366 miles the distance between the two locations was virtually identical to the distance between New York and London. But for Melanie, that was the least of her problems. Martinique has a population of roughly 375,000 people while Tucson’s population is half a million.
The two relatively small population centers meant that Melanie would need to take a series of connecting flights to increasingly larger cities just to get out of Martinique, and then do the reverse just to get from a large city to the smaller Tucson, Arizona. During her trip Melanie posted the following image to social media listing all the places she went through en route to joining the GOAT tour.
The list features six locations spanning four different countries. All of this just to get from one point in North America to another. Below I mapped out this route to give a better geographical visualization of what Melanie endured.
The first leg of Melanie’s journey featured a literal island hopping campaign where she went from Martinique, to Guadeloupe and then Hispaniola (Dominican Republic) before she could reach the mainland.
The decision to go through Guadeloupe was the first puzzling element of Melanie’s trip. Only a small number of suggested flight plans featured a Martinique to Guadeloupe connection. The two islands have relatively equal populations and each has a notable airport, although Guadeloupe’s airport is slightly larger.
The trip between Guadeloupe and Martinique is a short plane ride. But if Melanie had booked directly from Guadeloupe it would have taken her six hours on a ferry to get there.
The decision to go through Mexico was also puzzling as why would one choose to add another country to the trip? I tried to find this flight plan on various booking websites and couldn’t find any routes that brought someone to the United States via Mexico. But I did find a flight plan that went from Guadeloupe to Montreal, Canada. And then from Canada to Atlanta, Georgia before taking yet another plane to Tucson.
There were some flight plans involving Mexico where Melanie would enter the United States via Miami, get on a plane to Mexico City, and then reenter the United States via Seattle, San Francisco, or Phoenix depending on the option. And then take one last connecting flight from one of those three cities to Tucson.
While searching for a Mexican connection I came across a French connection. There were numerous flight plans suggesting a route from Martinique to Paris (Europe) and then taking a trip from the European continent back to Atlanta, Georgia and then on to Tucson. I even found a one-way return trip from Tucson to Martinique that went through Seattle, Washington.
But for every asinine flight option there were numerous sensible ones where Melanie could have entered the United States via Miami, Florida and taken two more domestic flights and be in Tucson. It all depends on what online booking website is used and how far out the hypothetical departure date is.
The main conclusion is that Melanie’s six-city tour wasn’t the best way to get to Arizona and I’m not sure why she had to deal with so many cities. But there were options that are considerably worse. But one thing is certain, Melanie spent an exhausting amount of time on an airplane. Every option had at minimum 20-24 hours of travel time when wait times between layover stops are considered.
Melanie de Jesus dos Santos is by no means the only French gymnast who hails from an overseas French island. It is actually surprisingly common amongst French gymnasts and France’s 2021 Olympic lineup in women’s gymnastics featured four gymnasts from three different continents.