COLLEGE PARK – Nearly two months after a failed front flip through a hoop of fire dashed their dream of winning ABC’s “America’s Got Talent,” the University of Maryland’s Gymkana team is dealing with the after-effects of their brush with stardom.
Despite being bounced in the semi-final round of the television competition, the highflying acrobatics team has attracted a slew of local and national attention since returning home.
“The fact that 14 million more people know who we are now – just by us being on this TV show twice — changed everything immediately,” Gymkana director and head coach Scott Welsh said.
Because of the publicity, Gymkana members said they are recognized a lot more and taken more seriously by people in the area.
“We are not just those guys who flip through fire,” senior Sammi Ahmed said. “People are starting to understand that we’re a serious’athletic’team and we work hard everyday at the gym.”
The team is scheduled to perform at the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., next year. Pending an end to the NBA lockout, the team has also been asked to open for the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden.
That’s a big change for a squad that, before the show, mostly performed in school gymnasiums in Maryland to spread their message of healthy living to kids.
While “America’s Got Talent” opened new doors for the team, Welsh said he wants to make sure they do not lose sight of their true identity. But the group has had higher expectations for their performances since their television debut.
“We have recently developed a sense of professionalism and innovation due to America’s Got Talent,” Ahmed said. “We are now working harder to make sure everyone is timed out perfectly and everyone has clean form.”
The national attention also helped with recruiting. About the same number of people joined the team in September as last year. In previous years, though, some new recruits left the team after a month or two. That hasn’t happened this year, Welsh said.
As Gymkana continues to become more popular and expands its fan base, Welsh said that the team will have to rely on one another to stay grounded and focused.
One way the team does this is by “circling up” before the beginning of each performance. They reflect on their progress and remind themselves to push their message of healthy living to as many people as possible.
Going forward, Welsh said he is unsure if Gymkana will enter more televised competitions like “America’s Got Talent.” But he hopes to take the team to more national and international stages.
For now, he said, the team is happy building off of their television success and maintaining its fan base.
“Now that it has all settled down, and we are not the TV stars we were two months ago, the people that really believe in what we stand for still follow us on Facebook and still interact with us daily or weekly,” Welsh said.