NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Fisk University in Nashville has officially launched the first-ever women’s gymnastics team in an HBCU.
Black gymnasts in the past have been forced to make a difficult decision between attending a HBCU Institution or pursue a passion for gymnastics, according to those of Fisk.
Now, longtime gymnasts like Zyia Coleman, a freshman at Fisk University, can compete with the best of both worlds.
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“We’re making history,” Coleman said on a call with Fox News Digital.
“I’m so thrilled to be part of history,” she added.
The 18-year-old described the opportunity as “breathtaking”. She expressed excitement about showing off the skills and abilities she and her teammates offer – and, of course, having fun and continuing to learn while doing it.
Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Coleman said gymnastics always came naturally to her as the daughter of a gymnastics coach who taught her advanced skills at a young age.
“I started competing at the age of five and since then I have fallen in love with gymnastics,” she said.
Eight years later, Coleman admitted that she was not at all sold on the idea of going to college until the opportunity to attend an HBCU and practice gymnastics presented itself.
“When you think of HBCUs, you think of the band, the great music, the cheerleader squad,” she said.
She added that she hopes “when you think of HBCUs in the future, you’ll think of gymnastics.”
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In an interview with Fox News Digital, Fisk University athletic director and head coach Corrinne Tarver said the development was “long overdue”.
Tarver, who was herself a U.S. national team gymnast and a national gymnastics champion at the University of Georgia, suggested that the delay in the final launch of an HBCU-based program may be because the sport is popular mainly during the Olympic years.
“When you watch gymnastics traditionally, the only time you saw it on TV was at national championships and sometimes world championships,” she said.
“So people haven’t really seen it other than [during] the Olympic calendar… It has a lot to do with the public perception of gymnastics.”
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Either way, Coleman said she was “just happy to be a part of it today.”
For Coach Tarver, taking on the historic team as head coach is a continuation of his barrier-breaking career as a gymnast. She was the first black gymnast to compete in UGA and win an NCA all-around title.
“For me, it’s exciting to take it to the next level,” she said.
The Fisk University gymnastics team expects to face other collegiate teams this season across the country, including teams from George Washington University, Towson University and the University of Michigan .
Coleman said she can’t wait to introduce Fisk gymnastics to the rest of the nation and represent her university.
“Coach Tarver – she recruited many great gymnasts,” she said.
Tarver also said she is looking forward to the team “successful”.
Said Tarver, “I’m throwing my girls in the deep end.”
The team’s first practice was on August 8, which Coleman described as “lively”.
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She reported that the team “just clicked,” even though the women are all from different parts of the United States.
“I was so excited to see everyone working,” she said. “We were all encouraging each other.”
“It was just good vibes, great energy, and it was a connection.”
After the first workout, Coleman posted a video on TikTok showing the girls in action.
The video has gone viral, receiving almost 780,000 views so far – and an outpouring of support in the comments section.
“It’s a lot of pressure, but I’m excited,” Coleman said. “We are ready.”
Tarver agreed that the overall public reaction has been “very positive” and paid tribute to Brown Girls Do Gymnastics, an advocacy organization.
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Fisk University Gymnastics is currently on a mission to raise $2 million in funding to build a training facility on campus.
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