WESTBOROUGH, Mass - The television ratings for the summer Olympics are still being counted, but so far over one billion people have tuned in. Arguably, women’s gymnastics is the most popular among viewers.
But as the games wind down, many Central Massachusetts gymnastics studios are ramping up. Hundreds of area children, inspired by the athleticism and grace of the Women’s Olympic team, are hoping to be the next gold medal contender.
“We’ve been really busy,” said Leo Doran, co-owner of Massachusetts Gymnastics Center, a six studio chain. “We have about 750 students in Westborough and over 3,600 in all of our locations."
Doran said that although 90 percent of his students are girls, more boys are showing up this year than ever before. “Most of the new kids we see have never done this kind of thing before,” he said. “But they see the Olympics on TV and it seems exciting to them.” He said their summer camp program is packed with children of all ages learning how to tumble, walk on a balance beam, and do a cartwheel.
Nationally, almost all gymnastic studios see a big uptick.
“Normally, we see a 2 to 3 percent increase in non-Olympic years,” said Kevin Loughery, a media and public relations representative from USA Gymnastics, the national governing body for the sport. “But with the success of the women’s team in London we could see a 4 to 5 percent increase.”
Loughery is cautious about his numbers, though, as many factors influence national enrollment, including the economy.
Andrea Peak, owner of “Over the Top,” a gymnastics studio based in Worcester, predicts this could be their best post-Olympic year ever. “In the last Olympics, we had a 9 percent increase,” she said. But with Needham’s Alexandra Raisman winning the gold, Peak is anticipating a record rush to the floor mat. “I’ve doubled the classes this year,” she said, who thinks the Proctor and Gamble T.V. ads that profile team members with their mothers will be especially motivating.
But Peak said that Olympic gymnastics fever is not limited to girls ages 2-14.
“After the last Olympics, a 66 year-old man signed up,” she said. “He wanted to learn how to cartwheel.”