PRESCOTT VALLEY--The Flip City Gym had the experience of a lifetime this week as Olympic gymnastics all-around gold medalist Nastia Liukin stopped by the Prescott Valley gym to work out with the kids and spread her love for the sport.
Flip City started in Cottonwood, then expanded to Prescott Valley. They're opening a new gym in Prescott next month and are considering opening another in Sedona.
They've competed at a high level and they won two meets at level four in the Nastia Liukin Cup Series: Classic Rock at University of Phoenix Stadium and Hard Rock in Las Vegas.
Flip City contacted Liukin's agent and pitched the idea for her to make an appearance, and they agreed, much to the elation of everyone at Flip City.
Liukin is one of the most decorated American gymnasts of all time, but she's also a great ambassador for the sport.
"I think it's great that Flip City is expanding because it's so important to stay active and gymnastics is a great way to do that," said Liukin. "Whether you want to go to the Olympics or not, it's just something fun where you can set goals for yourself and achieve them. It's very important that Flip City is expanding to make gymnastics more accessible for kids everywhere."
Flip City Director Dianne Upham's commitment to gymnastics in the area and how well the Flip City girls did in her series is what attracted Liukin to the area. The dedicated coaches on both sides of the mountain also deserve a lot of credit.
"I feel like all children should have an opportunity with gymnastics and I also feel that all children should be able to meet their idol," said Upham. "It means everything to them. It inspires them. Our competitions are coming up in September and I want them to be inspired for the state championships. Also, we want to continue to grow as a team."
Craig Andrew and his wife Summer are part owners of the Prescott Valley and Prescott Gyms. Flip City is dedicated to the kids and expanding their programs. They're very excited about the possibilities when they open in Prescott.
"There aren't a lot of opportunities up here for quality, competitive gymnastics," said Craig Andrews. "We can accommodate all levels of gymnastics. We have the facilities, we have the coaches, and we have the business that can make enough money to stay afloat and see the girls through a lifetime of the sport."
Having Liukin visit the girls made her real. One girl told her, "I didn't know you were real," because she had only seen her on TV and pictures.
It made the dream of using gymnastics as a vehicle more attainable. Three-time state champion Aleonna Sanchez is one of the standouts in the Cottonwood gym. She got to spend time with Liukin a little bit more than the rest of the girls because she won a raffle to eat dinner with her and ride with her in an airplane.
"It almost doesn't feel real," said Sanchez. "I never thought I would meet her."
Hearing about Liukin's struggles was also a boost.
"Hearing her personal stories and how she at times felt it was hard, that inspired me to feel like I can go all the way to college and to never give up," said Sanchez.