Forest City Gymnastics Earns Accolades










by Jeffrey Reed, Editor,

When Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci became a household name at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal with three gold medals and seven perfect 10s, local gymnastics also scored big with the establishment of Forest City Gymnastics Club.

Photo: Forest City Gymnastics Club

The sport has changed a lot over the past 43 years, and so, too, has Forest City which recently was awarded the Ed Brougham Club Award – Medium-Size Club, presented annually by Gymnastics Ontario. The award, honouring the governing body’s former president who died in 2002, recognizes a local club’s excellence in both in-house programming as well as involvement through hosting meets, coaching courses and special events.

Since Comaneci’s record-breaking performance at Montreal, gymnasts have evolved, just like any other athletes. They’re bigger, stronger and faster, said Forest City’s program director and former gymnast Merritt Lymburner. And according to Lymburner, the change in the prototypical elite gymnast has affected both demographics and longevity at the club level.

Merritt Lymburner

“One of the best things for gymnastics has been the average age trending upwards. Gone are the days where you needed to be a tiny little waif-like athlete. Now you’re seeing gymnasts who are powerful and muscular. This wasn’t always the case when I competed 15 or 20 years ago,” Lymburner said.

After 35 years in a 10,000-sq.-ft. building on First Street, Forest City is thriving in its new digs, a 22,000-sq.-ft. former industrial building at 2449 Dundas Street. Formerly a not-for-profit club, the gym is now operated by co-owners Cindy Smith-Rex and Andy Gantlett. Twenty recreational staff, 15 competitive staff and 10 coaches-in-training assist both club and elite gymnasts as they hone their skills in all gymnastics disciplines.

With about 700 registered members, including 150 competitive gymnasts, Forest City is home to competitive athletes starting at age 5, and recreational gymnasts beginning at 18 months.

“We’re seeing growth, including more boys,” Lymburner said. “The more kids who are doing gymnastics, the better. This is a sport that is a base for so many other sports. And a new generation of parents sees the value of their children being more well-rounded athletes.”

Lymburner said the Broughman award – for the first time presented to a local gymnastics club – is the culmination of a team effort for a group who have a strong connection with the community. As London’s oldest gymnastics club, Forest City has hosted numerous meets and special events, including Ontario Championships which it will host again in spring 2020.

Photo: Forest City Gymnastics Club

“It’s very exciting to see the hard work of the collective Forest City Gymnastics Club family be acknowledged by our governing body. We host a number of competitions and verification courses for coaches. And we appreciate our volunteers,” Lymburner said.

“One of our philosophies is predominantly focused on fostering long-term athlete development. And one of the nice things about moving into our new facility is our growth. We’ve had the opportunity to take the reins off of some of the athletes and coaches, and allow the athletes to be pushed a little more. We have athletes in our programs now who have a lot of potential, and some that are expressing an interest in pursuing scholarships.”

Lymburner’s assessment of the sport is backed by the International Olympic Committee, which calls gymnastics a “foundation sport,” which according to the IOC develops fundamental movement skills, physical and motor abilities, mental abilities, social and emotional abilities and performance skills that carry over into all aspects of life.

Forest City is sending 14 of its athletes to a mid-November Ontario Tour selection competition in Orangeville, Ontario. Athletes selected to the team will compete in January at the California Grand Invitational in Anaheim, California.

Forest City will host 600 gymnasts at its annual Emerald Cup Invitational from March 26 to 29. And in June, the club will host the Ontario Championships for Level 3 competitors.

While American Simone Biles is the gold standard for today’s elite gymnast, even recreational gymnasts can aspire to learn life’s lessons through the sport, according to Lymburner. And according to her, that’s why Forest City has thrived for more than 40 years.


Jeffrey Reed has been covering sports in London and Southwestern Ontario since 1980. Reed is also editor of Contact him at

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and

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