Watching Harlem native ZaQuae Carter perform an explosive run down the tumbling track feels like he’s defying gravity. The 14-year-old flies from move to move with a sense of power and purpose. In June, he won a national championship in the male 15-and-over tumbling division at the USA Gymnastics Championships.
Carter’s mother, Malary Dunn, was initially surprised when her son expressed interest in gymnastics and tumbling at around age seven after attending a program from Harlem Children’s Zone. He went with a group to participate in recreational gymnastics at the Harlem Armory.
Carter soon became involved with the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation (WHGF), which serves urban youth ages 3 to 17 with low-cost and free gymnastics as well as programs focused on health and nutrition. He was drawn to the WHGF’s supportive community. “After some years, ZaQuae has become great,” said Dunn.
He said what he loves about gymnastics and tumbling is the competition. “The rush, it makes me happy knowing other people like to do what I do,” Carter said. He loves the explosive nature of tumbling. “It feels like I’m on a rocket,” he said.
In addition to training with the WHGF, Carter also trains with coach Roger Walker at CAVU Trampoline & Tumbling in New Jersey. With this title, Carter hopes to be named to the Junior National Team.
“Winning means a lot because I’ve been working hard a long, long time, and it shows that the work has paid off,” said Carter. “Being part of Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation is like being around family because I’ve been there for so long. Everybody I know is always pushing me to do better.”
In trampoline, he’s able to soar. “When you’re flying in the air, you could just see everything,” he said. “What’s good about tumbling is you can show all your strength that you’ve built up in all your practices.”
A typical tumbling run involves eight flips. “Over each one, I always push harder and harder so I fly even faster,” said Carter, who takes a deep breath and sees himself winning before each run. “On the second to last skill I go straight up.”
In addition to tumbling and trampoline, Carter trains in gymnastics. His long-term goals include increasing his involvement in gymnastics and hopefully earning a college athletic scholarship. Right now, he’s back at training, and there’s a competition coming up in October.