No more so than at Decatur’s In Flight Gymnastics, where 112 gymnasts started a new season of training last month, up from 88 a year ago.
Derrin Moore, the school’s owner and coach, said she would definitely attribute some of the higher numbers to the Gabby effect.
“This year is definitely different,” she said. “Every day we are getting more and more phone calls and more and more people are coming by.”
On the home page of its Web site, www.inflightgymnastics.com, the first thing visitors see is “Congratulations Gabrielle Douglas” in bold letters.
Moore said they had to do something to acknowledge Gabby’s accomplishments.
“For Gabby to win the biggest prize in gymnastics is amazing,” she said.
Gabby is the first African-American gymnast to win both the individual all-around Olympic gold medal and the all-around and team event at the same Olympics. She is also only the fourth American woman to win the all-around title with a score of 15.966 on the vault, 15.200 on the uneven bars, 15.233 on the balance beam and 15.066 on the floor exercise.
Right after her win, Mary Lou Retton, the 1984 Olympic all-around champion, predicted that Gabby was going to inspire girls everywhere.
“Literally, a 7-year-old is watching the Olympics, and that seed is going to be placed and they’re going to say, ‘I’m going to be just like her,’ ” Retton told The New York Times in August.
Bela Karolyi, the legendary coach who counts Retton among his pupils, also said that Gabby’s glow will cover a wide swath.
“Thousands and thousands of African-American kids are going to go into gymnastics because of her because they will want to be the new Gabby Douglas,” he said. “With Mary Lou in 1984, her popularity doubled the number of gymnastics participants in this country. I expect a similar effect with Gabby.”
Corianne Cowan, who has been coaching at In Flight since 2007, said Gabby began inspiring the school’s gymnasts, ages 3 1/2 years to 16, even before she crossed the Atlantic Ocean. In Flight also coaches boys and men in acrobatics.
Gabby won her first big championship in July when she beat world champion Jordyn Wieber at Olympic trials.
“They began talking about her during the Olympic Trials,” Cowan said.
Now all Cowan has to do is mention the 4-foot-11-inch, 94-pound Olympian, affectionately called the “Flying Squirrel” for the height at which she soars over the uneven bars.
“They work harder at the mention of Gabby’s name,” said Moore, who opened In Flight Gymnastics in 2004 as a mobile gymnastics program servicing day care centers, private schools, cheerleading squads, after-school programs and other private groups.
The school moved into its own facility in 2009 and today is still DeKalb County’s only African-American-owned gymnastics school.
This year, four of its gymnasts – Jordan Leverette, 8; Kyla Little, 9; Camryn Graham, 10; and Teri Hiley, 11 – are state champions, and eight of its gymnasts competed in the SEC-AAU Regional Competition held in Fort Meyers, Fla., and qualified for Nationals held in Wisconsin.
Moore said parents call with stories about their children running and hopping on furniture.
Cowan said students are definitely pushing more.
“Their work ethic has increased,” she said, adding that seeing routines like kips – swinging forward in a pike or a straddle position and lifting toes to the bar at the very most forward point and swinging backward – and kip push-aways and cast hand stands on television inspired the young gymnasts.
“It gives them something to work toward,” she said.
Cowan said they also use video clips of collegiate gymnasts of color to encourage their students.
Nia Myricks, who lives in Lithonia, said Gabby was her daughters’ – Nyela Gutherie, 4, and Naja Williams, 10 – favorite gymnast during the Summer Olympics.
She said they all were glued to the television during the London gymnastic competition.
Myricks said she wanted to put her daughters in gymnastics school for a while and was happy to find In Flight Gymnastics, at 2520 C-5 Park Central Blvd. in Decatur.
“They always wanted to be active,” she said.
For more information, visit www.inflightgymnastics.com or call Derrin Moore at 404-451-4925.