Wednesday, September 14 2022

Fred Richard during a practice ahead of the 2022 U.S. Gymnastics Championships on August 17, 2022 in Tampa, Florida.

Richard’s performance in Brazil gives him confidence that he can win more material at national championships. Based on starting values, he says, he should be among Tampa’s top five all-rounders.

“So it’s about execution to close that gap,” he said.

Quick to display a mischievous grin, Richard carries himself with a humble confidence that lives right beneath his playful demeanor. The combination creates an eye-catching charisma, whether on the gym floor or in his TikToks.

As a gymnast, Richard is a skilled all-rounder, although he avoids the term.

“Instead of being an all-rounder, I consider him an event specialist on all six events,” he said. “I try to be competitive on everything.”

On social networks, he aims to make sport accessible and fun, but also ambitious.

TikToks started during the first COVID-19 lockdowns. Early trends – aka everybody dancing – bored Richard. Then people started sharing other unique talents.

“I was like, I have my own talents, let me show them what I do,” Richard said.

The videos really took off when he returned to his gym, Massachusetts Elite Gymnastics Academy, and had “endless equipment” to play with. Scroll through her feed today and you’ll find all kinds of gymnastics-adjacent entertainment. In a recent article, Richard took on two teammates in a high backflip challenge. After each successful backflip, they stacked the landing pads higher. (Richard ended up losing that one; with the mats stacked up to navel height, he completed the backflip but landed on his knees.)

Other challenges involve playing distracted, like circling the pommel horse amid flying foam blocks, or competing to see who can do the lowest backflip in a modified version of limbo.

As if to elaborate on the point Richard hopes to make about gymnastics, some of the videos can only be viewed after accepting TikTok’s disclaimer that “the actions in this video are professionally performed or supervised by professionals. Don’t try”.

Of course, most of the videos are just about Richard and his buddies having fun.

Doing the actual videos is the easy part, Richard said. The biggest challenge is coming up with good ideas.

“It can pop up in a minute or take days to come up with the right idea,” he said.

Unfortunately for Richard, free time to come up with these ideas is scarce. He flies out of Tampa on Sunday, then has Monday to pack his whole life before moving to Ann Arbor on Tuesday to start his freshman year at Michigan, where he’ll study business while competing for the Wolverines. And, yes, packing starts and ends on Mondays.

The good news for Richard and his fans is that Ann Arbor brings him a whole new world to play in, both with the Wolverines and on his TikToks.

“I want to go as far as possible, reach as many people as possible,” Richard said. “Because at the end of the day, I think that’s what the sport needs most to really take off.”

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