Brandon gymnastics center fulfills owner's dream

BRANDON — Most young gymnasts dream of one day competing in the Olympics, to have a gold medal hang around their necks like American greats Mary Lou Retton or Nastia Liukin.

Tonie Campbell had something a little different in mind.

"From the time I was 14," Campbell said. "I wanted to own my own gym."

Even at that young age, Campbell envisioned herself teaching others the art of gymnastics and expressing her love for the sport.

"I knew I had the passion to do it then," she said. "And that passion has only grown stronger."

In 2005, Campbell realized her dream when she opened Golden City Gymnastics near the corner of Lithia Pinecrest and Lumsden roads in Brandon. The gym holds classes and training sessions for ages 18 months to 18 years old.

"It's been about completing a vision that started a long time ago," Campbell said.

In the four years Golden City Gymnastics has been open, the facility has doubled in size to approximately 20,000 square feet.

"This whole process has been baby steps," Campbell said. "It's been done little by little."

Each of Campbell's three daughters participated in gymnastics, but it was a conversation with a coach that reignited her interest in the sport.

"I was talking about the program (my daughters were in), and said I'd always wanted to coach," Campbell said. "And they said to me 'Why not start now?' "

A few years later, the dreamer turned coach and gym owner when Golden City opened its doors and brought in upper-level coaches. "A lot of places have teenagers who coach, and that's fine because some teenagers can be good coaches," Campbell said. "But I wanted to get quality, experienced coaches who could help train these athletes properly."

But rather than open a gym strictly concerned with results, Campbell wanted an all-inclusive environment that was conducive for all who walked in the door. "Our vision was to open this center where good character mattered and families would feel comfortable sending their children," Campbell said. "But we also have a mix of high-level competition."

Earlier this month, a pair of girls' teams from Golden City Gymnastics (ages 7-11 and 10-12) representing Team Florida won first place at the AAU Junior Olympic Gymnastics competition in Des Moines, Iowa.

In addition to the team success, Haileigh Maxwell (10-11 division), Autumn Waldo (12-13) and Aimee Kelleher (16-19) each took home first place for the all-around competition in their respective divisions. Maxwell's overall 36.675 score tied for best score at the event, while Kelleher won the Joel Ferrell Outstanding Performance Memorial Award for the athlete in each sport that best encompasses ability and sportsmanship.

"I think the travel was fun and very thrilling for the girls," Campbell said. "And (the Junior Olympics) really went out of their way to make it a special event for the kids."

Brandon Wright can be reached at hillsnews@sptimes.com.

Brandon gymnastics center fulfills owner's dream 08/20/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 20, 2009 5:30am]

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