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UCLA gymnast Nia Dennis celebrates 'Black excellence' in viral routine

The Bruins gymnast has earned high praise from champ Simone Biles and other notable names.
UCLA Bruins defeated the Arizona Wildcats in the season opener of Gymnastics.
UCLA Bruins gymnast Nia Dennis delivered a winning floor routine that’s gone viral, featuring music from Kendrick Lamar, Soulja Boy, Tupac Shakur and more.Keith Birmingham / MediaNews Group via Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

The UCLA women’s gymnastics team is known for delivering standout routines that pair athletic skill with flourish and popular music. After the Bruins faced off against the Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday, that reputation got another boost.

That’s because gymnast Nia Dennis, a college senior from Columbus, Ohio, made a big impact with her winning floor routine.

“This is what #blackexcellence looks like,” UCLA Gymnastics tweeted alongside a clip of Dennis' performance.

The routine, which ran just over a minute and half long, showcased her prowess on the mat and effervescent style — filled with stepping, dance and a nearly ever-present smile. It was all set to a mashup of music by Black artists, including Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé and Missy Elliott.

UCLA Bruins gymnast Nia Dennis competes in the floor exercise against Arizona State during the season opener in Los Angeles on Saturday.Keith Birmingham / MediaNews Group via Getty Images

“This routine definitely reflects everything that I am today as a women,” Dennis told reporters in a post-meet press conference. “And, of course, I had to incorporate a lot of parts of my culture.”

Asked about her favorite part, she replied, “I like the whole routine.”

Evidently, the judges felt the same way, awarding her 9.95 out of 10. And ever since the routine hit social media, she’s gotten rave reviews, too.

“Okay (Nia Dennis) do the damn thing girl,” Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles tweeted. “This was so fun to watch! keep killing it!”

Rapper Missy Elliott replied to UCLA Gymnastics' tweet with the video of the routine, writing, "Snappin'" with the flame emoji.

“Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi also tweeted a trio of diamond emojis and the simple exclamation, “WOW!”

"Queer Eye" star Karamo Brown added, “Because of (co-star Jonathan Van Ness’) love of gymnastics I found a love for the sport too! And this young woman from @uclagymnastics is a star!"

Saturday's match wasn't the first time Dennis has gone viral for her floor routines. In February 2020, she stunned with a high-energy, flipped-filled floor routine set to Beyoncé hits.