OWASSO, Okla. -- A lot of eyes are glued to the television anytime the gymnasts compete at the Olympics.
The athletes' daring routines inspire many boys and girls to one day go for the gold themselves, and that has a huge effect on businesses in Green Country.
"Every little girl that sits there and watches Simone (Biles) or Shawn Johnson or whoever the star is of that Olympics, that's who they want to be," said Teresa Piper, owner of Elite Gymnastics, Cheer & Power Tumbling in Owasso.
Piper said her business experienced its biggest bump a year after she bought it when the gymnasts competed in 2012 at the London Olympics.
"I sat with a computer on my lap watching the (women's) team finals," Piper said. "You can do online enrollments, and I just watched it. I bet there were 25 or 30 online enrollments that came in. Then, for the next two weeks, there were three of us at the front desk, and it was just a solid line (of people) every night. It was the craziest thing I've ever experienced."
The Olympics are what first brought many of Piper's students into her gym, including 13-year-old power tumbler Jonathon Purdum and 14-year-old gymnast Natalie Thornton.
"I watched the 2004 Olympics whenever I was three years old," Thornton recalled with a smile. "I saw all the big girls doing those amazing things. I just thought I want to do that, so my parents put me in gymnastics the very next week."
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"I watched the Olympics when I was young," Purdum said. "I just thought it was really cool, so I started to tumble."
Both athletes now compete all over Oklahoma and the region in their respective sports. They said watching current Olympians, like Simone Biles and Aly Raisman in gymnastics and Logan Dooley on trampoline, motivates them to practice harder and dream bigger.
"It pushes me to try and pop out more and get my positions down and make everything good, especially on trampoline," Purdum said.
"I watch how they do stuff, see how I can do the things they do and watching how perfect they do it and see if I can apply it to my gymnastics," Thornton added.
Matthew Hinds, who coaches the gym's power tumbling teams with his wife, said he not so secretly hopes to launch one of his students to the Olympics.
"I hope that's every coach's dream," Hinds said. "If I have an athlete that someday gets to that level and wants to push even further, man, that would be a huge dream."
Piper said several families already contacted her to begin taking classes since the Olympics began in Rio de Janeiro. She expects there will be more soon.
Even if they never advance to the highest echelon of competition at the Olympics, she said the skills that boys and girls learn as gymnasts will help them the rest of their lives.
"They learn hard work, what it means and to set a goal," Piper said. "Once they reach that goal, okay, you're not done. Let's set a new goal. That's all the things we want to see in employees."
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