BURNSVILLE, Minn. — At IGM Gymnastics in Burnsville, team coach and owner Irina Kim – sister of five-time Olympian Nellie Kim - spends her days training students in gymnastics.
As three Olympians from Minnesota compete to bring home medals in the Tokyo Olympics, Kim says she’s seen a newfound interest in the sport.
“What is shocking is that my office manager called and said we got 11 calls in like one hour, and the kids want to sign up for gymnastics,” said Kim.
Last year, Kim says she was forced to temporarily shut down as COVID-19 spread.
“In March, we got shut down, and the youth sport not being able to train and coaches doing zoom every day,” said Kim. “We reopen in July and got shut down in November and high level gymnasts can’t have that much time off.”
But with local Olympians like St. Paul’s Suni Lee winning three medals in her Olympic debut, Kim is optimistic for the future of the sport.
“They believe, they want to be just like her,” said Kim.
Ellie Rowland – a marketing director for Mini Hops Gymnastics –says although registration for the school year opens next month, they have “seen a rise in people reaching out to learn more about gymnastics.”
As for Shane Wiskus, who used to train at the gym, Rowland says, “we are just so proud to see him reach his dream of becoming an Olympian. Shane, grace and Suni are fantastic ambassadors for Minnesota gymnastics.”
As Kim continues to train the next group of future Minnesota Olympians, she’s rooting for all those representing the U.S. in Tokyo.
“It’s like a flower that’s what I always tell my kids, you never know when it will bloom, you have a kid you never know will perform and one day, boom, click,” said Kim.
Suni Lee is expected to compete again Tuesday in the beam event final.