The Flipz Story
Zina Fudge didn’t know she was opening a gym in Columbia until her husband phoned her one morning to tell her he’d found a great deal on a 100-by-125-foot pre-fabricated steel building – and he’d bought it.
“We didn’t even have a piece of land to put it on,” she recalled. But the former University of Missouri-Columbia gymnast was used to leaping, and this time she jumped in with both feet. Over the next several months, the couple purchased land and hired a contractor, and a 15,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art gymnastics facility took shape under Fudge’s careful choreography.
Located just off I-70 Drive S.E. on Hillsdale Road, the gym opened in September 2002 under the name Flipz USA. It offers both recreational and competitive gymnastics classes, as well as cheerleading, tumbling and birthday parties. Students may start at 18 months and stay through their teens. The operation now coaches about 370 kids every week, from babies to teenagers. Fudge previously owned gyms in Jefferson City and Sedalia and says the local market has plenty of students to go around.
Fudge takes particular pride in the immaculate blue-and-white facility with splashes of red. “It’s great to walk in every morning, to see this place, and know it’s all yours.”
Fudge grew up in Jenks, Okla., and trained at Tulsa World of Gymnastics. She was a standout on the Jenks High School gymnastics team, earning a full scholarship to MU. From 1981 to 1985, Fudge competed for the Tigers while earning a degree in commercial recreation. As a collegiate gymnast, she made the All-Big 8 team, and one year tumbled her way to a first-place finish in the floor competition at the Cat Classic. She also met her future husband, MU wrestler Carl Fudge, while training at Hearnes.
Fudge returned to MU in 1986 to work on a master’s degree in travel and tourism research. To support herself, she taught gymnastics at Tiger Academy and later worked for Columbia Gymnastics Club. Fudge finished her degree in 1988, and in 1990 she started her first gym, Flipz USA Gymnastics, in Jefferson City.
By the mid-1990s, Fudge was living in Sedalia with her husband, and in 1996 she opened a second gym there. She continued to commute to Jefferson City to operate that gym, too. In 2001, her husband, at the time working for UPS, was transferred to Columbia and Fudge was facing commutes to both Jefferson City and Sedalia. Since opening Flipz in Columbia, Fudge has sold the Jefferson City and Sedalia facilities.
Picking a name for her gym was easy. Early on, Fudge had earned the nickname “Flipsey” or “Flip Z” for Zina, which later became “Flipz.” “It’s been on my license plate as long as I can remember,” she said.
“I love doing something that encourages kids to have an active lifestyle,” Fudge said, noting that gymnastics is a good training for any sport because it helps kids gain strength, balance, agility, coordination and flexibility.
Fudge’s gymnasts make more than just physical gains. By the time the girls enter the competitive team level, they’re putting in four-hour practices several nights a week. “It takes a big chunk of their time,” Fudge said. “They have to learn time-management skills as well, which will help them for the rest of their lives.” Practices at this level are lengthy, Fudge explained, because the girls do stretching and conditioning and must also train for four events each practice: vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise. “Every event is like its own sport,” Fudge said.