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April 7, 2014
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Neighbors: From Zimbabwe to Roseburg, gymnastics coach flips for sport

It’s been about 16 years since the head coach at Umpqua Valley Gymnastics has competed for a championship, but he’s not afraid to spring into action to show his students a skill.

As a young gymnast, Khumbulani Moyo, 40, could do 1½ twists off the vault. He recently discovered he can still do a kip, a technique to mount and connect skills in a bar routine.

“I was surprised I can still do it,” he said, laughing. “I don’t know what I can do. It’s been a while.”

The five-time Zimbabwe national champion won silver on the vault in the All-Africa Championships in 1994, placed seventh in the All-Africa Games in 1995 and represented Zimbabwe at the World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1997.

For nearly two decades, Moyo has dedicated his days to coaching gymnasts. Most of that time has been spent at Umpqua Valley Gymnastics Club in Roseburg.

Moyo was born in Harare, Zimbabwe. He got involved in gymnastics when he was about 10 years old.

“I was the odd one out. Everybody played soccer and I just liked gymnastics better,” he said.

“When I was a kid, my cousin was into Jackie Chan movies. As a kid, I always fantasized about the jumps and flips. I’ve been involved since that time,” Moyo said. “That’s all I do. That’s all I know.”

Moyo said he spent every day in the gym working on his floor and vault routines. “I couldn’t wait to do my routines,” he said.

He started coaching beginning gymnasts in 1989 at his school and the local college, Prince Edward School, where he later attended.

A couple of years later, he made his first national team appearance as a senior in high school and received a bronze medal in the team competition in the All-Africa Games in Cairo, Egypt, in 1991.

“It was the greatest thing ever. Here I was competing for the first time and for us to get third place was beyond my expectations,” Moyo said. “It made me more hungry and excited to be doing it.”

Moyo said he realized then that he would either have to excel at gymnastics or get a “real job.”

He chose gymnastics.

Moyo decided to end his education after Prince Edward School because he was too busy competing and coaching. “I spent so much time traveling, I couldn’t continue doing school,” he said.

By the late 1990s, Moyo shifted his full attention to coaching.

The coach at Prince Edward School who recruited Moyo, Kim Richards, was from Corvallis and helped Moyo make connections in the states. Moyo said he dreamed of running his own club, so when a spot opened up at Mid Valley Gymnastics in Albany, Richards submitted Moyo’s name and it all worked out.

Moyo moved to Albany in 1998. It was the first time he had traveled to the United States, he said.

The job was short-lived, however, because the gym closed a year later.

Moyo said he entertained job offers for several gyms in Oregon and across the states, including Roseburg’s gym. “At first, I had no intention of stopping in Roseburg,” he said.

While on his way to another job interview in Reno, Nev., he decided to stop and check it out. “The girls were pretty good. They had a solid team,” Moyo said. “I didn’t expect to see that kind of gymnastics here.”

The team had potential and Oregon’s scenery reminded Moyo most of home, so he took the job. That was nearly 15 years ago.

“I have watched kids grow. Most of the senior coaches are kids I coached when they were 5,” he said.

The gym’s assistant team coach, Kaila Stutzman, said Moyo coached her for eight years and led her to three regional competitions.

“He’s really awesome. He wants you to do your best. He pushes you,” she said.

“We started off as a smaller team when he came to us, and he’s built it up,” Stutzman said. “We have more numbers now than we ever had and our team is very strong.”

The club of about 160 gymnasts has produced numerous champions since Moyo took over, she said.

Moyo said his club has become one of the best in the state.

“It’s nice to go to meets and people know who you are. I guess we are doing something right,” he said.

It was also at a meet in Ashland that Moyo met his future wife, Kari, whose cousin was competing. After they began talking, Moyo said he discovered Kari lived in Sutherlin. “The rest is history,” he said.

The couple married in 2005 and now have two children, Megan, 8, and Jayvyn, 4.

Megan has taken to gymnastics, like her father. “It’s so different when it’s your own kid. Sometimes I can’t watch because I’m so nervous,” Moyo said.

He said he hopes one day he can take his family to Zimbabwe and share his childhood with them.

“I hope I can fly them all back home, and they can see where I grew up and where it all started,” he said.

• Reporter Jessica Prokop can be reached at 541-957-4209 and jprokop@nrtoday.com.

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The News-Review Updated Apr 7, 2014 12:55PM Published Apr 9, 2014 09:28AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.