The turned in those performances during the November 16-19 30th Federation International Gymnastic (FIG) World Age Championships in Birmingham, England.
Carter, who recently turned 17, won a Bronze Medal during the Men’s Tumbling in the 15-16 age group. He secured a medal for the United States as gymnasts from 23 different nations earned medals. He is a senior at A. Phillip Randolph High School in Harlem, NY.
“Winning the Bronze Medal feels like a first-step accomplishment for myself,” Carter said. “It shows that the training I’ve been doing has been helpful. I didn’t really surprise myself; I was just happy that I was able to get a medal.
“This will have a great influence on my confidence because it shows that I still have room to improve. I was able to get a Bronze Medal, but the goal is to go for Gold.”
Mensah, 18, reached the finals of the Men’s Double Mini Trampoline 17–21-year-old competition following a No. 1 showing in the qualification round. Overall, he finished 8th. He is a freshman and attends Bowie State in Maryland.
“It felt great to make the finals since it was my first international finals while competing in the Double Mini Trampoline internationally,” Mensah said.
Mensah competed a few days earlier in the World Championships – also in Birmingham – and was a member of the USA team’s fourth-place showing during the Tumbling competition. Carter was an alternate for the USA team in the World Championships.
“The achievement of having two athletes represent the USA in both the World Championships and World Age Group Championships was remarkable,” said Wendy Hilliard, WHGF founder and CEO. “It’s a testament to the years of hard work from athletes and coaches, supported by dedicated parents.
“Alongside these accomplishments in Birmingham, connecting with WHGF Alumni Nasrullah “Nas” Abdul-Rahman, a former teammate of BJ and ZaQuae who recently joined the Birmingham Royal Ballet 2, was a highlight. Investing in young individuals who utilize gymnastics to inspire other youth is always worthwhile.”
Before his appearance in Birmingham, Mensah qualified for two internationally sanctioned events: the 2023 West Palm Beach World Cup in West Palm Beach, Fla., and the 2023 Coimbra World Cup in Coimbra, Portugal.
Both Carter and Mensah have been involved in tumbling from a young age, first training with the WHGF and then later training at CAVU with coach Roger Walker, a former World Champion who began training top WHGF athletes at the CAVU Trampoline & Tumbling in New Jersey due to the COVID shutdown of the WHGF facility in Harlem.
Moreover, Harlem natives Mensah and Carter are no strangers to the FIG World Age Group Competitions.
In 2021, Mensah finished as the top American tumbling performer in his age division at the 28th FIG Trampoline Gymnastics World Age Group Competitions in Baku, Azerbaijan. A scholarship athlete for the WHGF, Mensah is also the son of pioneering Rhythmic Gymnast sensation Wendy Hilliard and finished 13th out of 32 worldwide performers in the 15–16-year-old division.
In 2022, Carter made his international competition debut at the 29th FIG Trampoline Gymnastics World Age Group Competitions in Sofia, Bulgaria, and at only 16 years old he finished seventh in the world, with an overall score of 23.900.
Hilliard founded WHGF, which started in Harlem in 1996 and expanded to her hometown in Detroit in 2016. Since its inception, WHGF has provided FREE and low-cost gymnastics to underserved communities serving 25,000 urban youth. The two locations comprise over 25 instructors and staff members. WHGF elite athletes have won four national championships, competed in two world championships, and been a member of six USA Gymnastics National Teams.
Wendy Hillard & WHGF
Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Wendy started gymnastics at age 12. She trained through the Detroit Recreation Department with coaches from the former Soviet Union. She was the first Black athlete to represent the U.S. in international competition in rhythmic gymnastics and competed in three World Championships. In 2008, she was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame. She was President of the Women’s Sports Foundation and coached 1996 Olympian Aliane Baquerot Wilson. Following her competitive and award-winning experience as a world-class athlete and coach, Wendy recognized the lack of gymnastic opportunities among urban youth, which inspired her to launch the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation.
The WHGF is a pioneering, black-led organization, trailblazing the path for international gymnastic champions. As a nonprofit, its unparalleled legacy lies in offering support and opportunities to youth through gymnastics. Often likened to an “HBCU” for gymnastics, it distinguishes itself through the diversity and excellence of its staff. Moreover, it’s remarkable for introducing thousands of underserved youth to gymnastics, enabling some to achieve incredible heights in a sport typically not located in urban centers.
The Foundation serves urban youth between the ages of 3 to 17. At WHGF, young gymnasts learn about time management, responsibility, teamwork, leadership, and sustainable health habits. Last year, WHGF in New York City celebrated its 25th anniversary.
To learn more about the Wendy Hilliard Foundation, please visit www.wendyhilliard.org.
Photo credit: ZaQuae Carter (left) proudly displays his Bronze Medal in the Men’s 15-16 Tumbling earlier this month at the World Age Championships in Birmingham, England; BJ Mensah is all smiles following a strong showing in the Men’s 17-21 Double Mini. Photos courtesy of USA Gymnastics.