Gymnastics have certainly been at the forefront of sports consciousness in the past couple of weeks with the Olympics going on. The American public, as well as spectators from across the globe have been plugged into the athletic feats taking place on the mat, as well as the widely discussed actions of superstar gymnast Simone Biles. In the estimation of many, Biles is the greatest gymnast of all time, whether the discussion in centered around U.S. competitors, or global ones. But as you go through a list of the most accomplished female gymnasts in the sport’s history, only a couple are of African-American descent.
However, one historically black college is taking a close look at providing an opportunity for more women of color to participate in gymnastics while at university. Grambling State is pondering whether to add a women’s gymnastics team to their athletic program. If they moved forward with the plan, it would make the institution the first HBCU to offer it.
Grambling State recently hosted a conference organized by Brown Girls Do Gymnastics, which is an association which looks to provide opportunities to minority females looking to break into the sport. As a separate but related step, the university is also considering the forgiveness of $1.5 million in student debt. It’s unclear as to whether this generous action will be finalized, or whether it will be extended in some form into the future. If Grambling State is willing to offer scholarships, or make it more financially viable for students of color to attend their school to participate in gymnastics, it could serve as an ideal runway for a pipeline of talented American athletes to get their start in the discipline.
Grambling State alumni like Nicole James would love to see her alma mater be on the forefront of history in this realm. When she attended the school in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, there was no program to quench her gymnastics thirst, so she enrolled in the cheerleading program. James has since gone on to found a gymnastics academy in 2004.
Cecile Landi is one of Biles’ two main coaches, and certainly sees the landscape of the sport changing before our eyes.
“Simone has opened the eyes to so many women of color saying ‘Hey, you can do this too.’ It’s not just little skinny white girls that can do it. Anyone can do it,” Landi communicated. Via Ebony.com