University of Maryland's own Gymkana gymnastics troupe displayed their fierce acrobatic skills on live television August 9 on on America's Got Talent (NBC at 9 PM EST Tuesdays and Wednesdays). America voted and Gymkana will be going through to the semi-final competition where they will face 24 other hopeful stars and have a chance at winning the one million dollar prize.
In addition to their crowd-pleasing gymnastic routines infused with extreme acrobatics, what makes Gymkana a potential stand-out from the competition is their unique mission. Based in the University of Maryland School of Public Health
, this student group acts as "ambassadors of healthy living" to young people and models healthy behaviors by pledging to remain drug, alcohol, and tobacco free and cooperating to accomplish challenging physical feats. They regularly perform shows for elementary, middle, and high schools in the Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia region and mentor kids ages 5-16 through gymnastics classes and a six-week camp each summer.
"We're very proud of our Gymkana troupe for their positive outreach to kids," says Dean Robert S. Gold of the University of Maryland School of Public Health. "Some of the students who have participated in Gymkana were first introduced to them as elementary school children. Their act leaves a lasting impression and fits with the School of Public Health's commitment to promotingand modelinghealth throughout the lifespan."
Gymkana director and head coach Scott Welsh, himself a Gymkana alumnus, is proud that the troupe offers a great sense of community for its University of Maryland student-athletes and sees how their hard work pays off in increased confidence.
"Gymkana's philosophy is that anyone can learn gymnastics regardless of experience or abilities, so membership is open to students of all abilities and backgrounds," Welsh says. "Some in our troupe have previous gymnastics training, but we are proud to have students of diverse body types. You don't have to look like a stereotypical gymnast to do this."
"Flipping in a leotard in front of thousands of people has a way of erasing insecurities about physical appearance," says Warren Hull, a recent electrical engineering graduate from Hyde, Md., of the way that his membership in Gymkana has changed how he feels about himself. In Gymkana's first AGT performance, Hull was the one who impressed viewers by flipping in between the ladders.
Make that millions of people. No matter the outcome of the America's Got Talent competition, Gymkana may reach and inspire more young people than they ever thought possible. And as Orsam "Sami" Ahmed, a 21-year old Kinesiology major and Gymkana member from Glenn Dale, MD, says of their influence on elementary school kids, "Even if I were to mess up and fall doing a flip, they still think it's so cool and go home with the message of living healthy. That's what I like most about being in Gymkana."
Gymkana will be appearing in the America's Got Talent semi-finalsStay tuned for updates and visit their contestant bio page on NBC for updates: here
Watch their August 9 performance: here
Visit Gymkana's website