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East County Wednesday, Sep. 5, 2018 2 years ago

Vault to notoriety in Lakewood Ranch

Greenbrook 6-year-old earns honor recognizing her gymnastic potential. AND Fifty girls nationally earn the TOPs Diamond Team designation in the 7-year-old class.
by: Amelia Hanks Community Reporter

Handstands, backhand springs and cartwheels. Greenbrook 6-year-old Tatum Browne can do them all.

While many girls her age might be coloring or playing with dolls, Browne is training four days a week at Lakewood Ranch Gymnastics with her older sisters Sahara, 11, and Stokely, 9.

“My sisters do gymnastics, and so I do it,” Tatum said. “I watched them, and it looked fun.”

Tatum was one of approximately 3,000 girls from around the country who tried to earn a spot on the National Talent Opportunity Program Diamond Team, announced Aug. 10. She then became one of 50 girls to earn the designation and one of only two Florida residents to receive the honor.

Even though she is 6, she competes in the 7-year-old division because her birthday falls in December. She started competing in gymnastics when she was 4.

Laura Parraga, her coach at Lakewood Ranch Gymnastics, said it wasn’t a surprise Tatum made the team.

“She’s so strong,” Parraga said. “She has the body of a perfect gymnast, with tight lines and a strong body. It’s very clear she is leagues above everyone that she’s competing with at her age.”

Because Tatum, a first-grader at Gilbert W. McNeal Elementary, is so young, Parraga isn’t sure she will embrace the sport for the long term or will want to continue its demands. 

“Right now, she’s thirsty for it, and she loves being in the gym,” Parraga said. “As gymnasts get older, you never know. For now, she doesn’t really strike me as a kid that would quit. She just wants it.”

Parraga said to qualify for the TOPs Diamond Team, Tatum had to do a series of gymnastics exercises, including handstands, press handstands, casts, leg lifts, rope climbs, and show her ability on the vault, bars, beam and floor exercise.

“They don’t rank the girls, but I would suspect that she’s probably top five out of those 50 girls,” Parraga said.

Tatum’s mom, Laura Browne, said  Tatum and her sisters Stokely and Sahara practice together.

“At home, they practice handstands and back handsprings all around the house whenever they get home from gymnastics,” Laura said. “I’m not the best person to say Tatum is better than other gymnasts her age, but as long she wants to do it, we’ll keep bringing her.”

Laura said she’s not worried about the demands of competitive gymnasts on a 6-year-old.

“We’re very open about it,” Laura said. “She would tell us if she wanted to stop coming in. As for (potential) injuries, we’ll deal with whatever comes up. Of course, it concerns us, but you could get that in any sport.”

Laura said her daughter, whose favorite activity is tumbling, gravitated toward gymnastics for a simple reason. She was playing soccer and she decided she didn’t want to be outside in the heat.

Although young, Tatum said she already has a big goal.

“I want to go to the Olympics,” she said. “My favorite gymnast is Simone Biles.”

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