Fisk University gymnastics team makes history

Photo courtesy: Sports Illustrated

Dominique Dawes, Gabrielle Douglas and Simone Biles are to name a few that have been recognized for their achievements as Olympic Gold Medalists, paving the way for a new generation of “Girls On Fire.”

Fisk University has announced its Intercollegiate Women’s Gymnastics team, making history as the first HBCU to add this sport to their athletic program. 

The Nashville Bulldogs gained national attention after a member of the team created a viral TikTok video highlighting the teams first practice, which culminated over 880 thousand views.

Freshman student-athlete, Zyia Colman, began gymnastics when she was four years old. Coleman has trained hard to become a level ten gymnast and helped build excitement around the Fisk gymnastics program when her video of the team’s first practice went viral this summer. 

“There’s a lot of pressure on us,” Colman said. “The TikTok I posted has been getting a lot of great feedback, and they are excited to see our floor routines, leotards, and more videos…they want the inside scoop.”

Sparkly uniforms and hairstyles merely depict the rigorous physical and mental durability gymnasts must sustain in order to compete at the highest level. Flexibility, agility and strength are just a few skills that these women must master during practices before hitting the competition mat. 

The team is headed by newly appointed Fisk Athletic Director, Coach Corrinne Tarver. Tarver made history as the first African American to win an all-around championship title during her time at the University of Georgia. 

Colman is grateful for Tarver’s selection of a team that gelled immediately. Tarver and the gymnasts both have individual and team goals set for the season.

“The goal for the team is to go out there, have fun, show what we can do and leave it all on the floor,” Colman said. 

With an influx of African American athletes taking their talents to HBCUs, notoriety, brand deals and funding has increased for athletic programs across the country.

Florida A&M University student and former gymnast at Arizona State University, Alina Miller, is excited to see what the future of gymnastics looks like and wonders if other HBCUs will follow Fisk’s lead.

“Building a community of black gymnasts would be amazing,” Miller said. “I would definitely go to an HBCU that had a gymnastics program.”

As a Black athlete competing in a predominantly white sport, Miller dealt with insecurities and questions pertaining to her hair among other things.

“I am proud of every single person on that team,” Miller said. “I know that some of the gymnasts could have gone to other bigger D1 universities, so they are making everyone proud, every black gymnast proud.”

Fisk University’s roster of 16 is set to compete against any Division I, II or III schools beginning in January 2023.