On a side street in Gowanus, inside what was once an abandoned fish market, ten girls spend four hours six days a week practicing vault, bar, beams, and floorwork. They get breaks for snacks, homework, and bonding, then it’s back — happily — to the grind. “What I love about gymnastics is you’re basically doing what other people can’t do,” says 12-year-old Sylvia Bradford. “You’re basically flying in the air.”
These girls are the cream of a crop being cultivated at Gotham Gymnastics, which is producing world-class talent in a field that more commonly recruits from midwestern suburbs. Gotham’s 130 competitive gymnasts range in age from 6 to 18. The club has 15 girls at Level 10 — the highest level of the USA Gymnastics Development Program — and 27 Level 9’s, numbers that are virtually unheard of in any program, let alone a burgeoning one in Brooklyn. Five girls are on the path to competing nationally, with hopes of participating in the Olympics. Gotham’s growing reputation has been good for business: Pre-pandemic, it had 850 athletes; the club now boasts 1,600, roughly two-thirds of whom are girls.
Co-founders Daniel Miranda and his wife, Ana Rita Nunes, see the city as an untapped pool of talent. “We knew we could do better,” Nunes says. Nunes and Miranda are both from Brazil, where Nunes competed on the 1998 national team. The couple coached for eight years in New Jersey before starting Gotham with five other families in 2019.
They pride themselves on prioritizing a “healthy culture” over “collecting medals.” In a sport that’s become synonymous with abuse, Gotham teaches parents, coaches, and athletes to form “the triangle of trust.” “We have to be the example out there of change,” says Nunes. Gotham’s gymnasts come from all five boroughs. On a summer afternoon, their top recruits practice double layouts across the floor. They look like a gang of sisters, giggling in blue leotards and scrunchies. After one gymnast hits a super-human stride, another grabs two cell phones off a foam block and hits RECORD. “I just have to film this, sorry,” she says.
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