By Kate Quesada

Last summer, many young gymnasts watched athletes like Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas participate in the Olympic Games and dreamed of one day competing themselves. Last month, this dream became closer to a reality for three local girls who were invited to the Olympic Training Site in Texas to participate in high-level camps.

Lila Couture (8), Asia Reid (8) and Emerson Fisk (9) all train at Golden City Gymnastics in Brandon in the Talent Opportunities Program (TOPs) under coaches Brianne and Shauna Swartz.

“This program is specifically for young athletes who show great potential in the sport of gymnastics,” said Shauna, whose family owns Golden City Gymnastics.

According to Shauna the athletes in the TOPs program, which consists of seven girls, train twice a week for three and a half hours in addition to training for their personal level, which can add up to as long as 18 to 24 hours a week.

“These girls deserve recognition because the TOPs program, which leads to elite gymnastics, is an intense program,” said Shauna, who has been coaching for almost 10 years. “The training is vigorous and we expect perfection from them. We train them hard and they work even harder. What we love about these girls is that they have a goal and they are willing to work as hard as they need in order to achieve it.”

At the Olympic Training Site in Texas in October, the girls competed against 300 athletes between the ages of eight and 10, for a spot in a camp where they will be watched by National Team Coordinator Valeri Liukin.

“He and the entire National Staff keep their eye out for the next Olympic star,” said Shauna.

Five athletes from Golden City have been invited to camps at the Olympic Training Center in the next few months. In addition to Couture, Reid and Fisk, Rayna Light and Nhi Nguyen, who are both 11 years old, will be participating in a Developmental Invite camp this month.

“It is an honor to have any athletes invited to the Olympic Training Site, but to have five is incredible,” said Shauna, who explained that the camps only have about 50 girls in them. “This is a great group of girls who have worked hard to accomplish their goals. They have Olympic dreams and we will do everything we can to help them get there.”

For more information on Golden City Gymnastics, located at 930 Lithia Pinecrest Rd. in Brandon, call 685-7770.