Photos Courtesy of Jim Gaffney
Owen Quant, 8, and Cooper Gaffney, 10, started doing gymnastics about a year ago. In that short time, they have shown themselves to be exceptional athletes, winning many events. The two Fishhawk residents train five days a week for three and a half hours a day, plus a two-hour commute back and forth to their gym in Tampa, and to events all over the state of Florida on the weekends.
Quant wanted to pursue gymnastics after he went on summer vacation and had fun doing backflips in the pool. His parents noticed that he had a knack for gymnastics. He enjoys doing the sport in his spare time as well. “I like to learn new tricks on the trampoline,” Owen said.
“Cooper started doing back handsprings in the living room at around age six and hand stands at age seven, so it was apparent that he was going to need to be in a sport that could use his unique skills,” said his father, Jim Gaffney.
“Gymnastics give kids strength, flexibility and confidence that they can take on to any other sport.”
The boys compete in all of the events, including the High Bar, Range, Floor, Vault, Mushroom and Parallel Bars. Both want to get a gymnastics scholarship in the future, and ultimately, make it to the Olympics when they are older.
They train at a gym called LaFleur’s Gymnastics in Tampa and they are coached by Steven Schmerber. The younger team, made up of six boys, including Owen and Cooper, have won 1st place in the last three tournaments. Some of the older high school boys in their group have already committed to Division I colleges for gymnastics. “I think I’m really lucky to have the coach that I have,” Gaffney said.
Both Owen and Cooper have recently medaled in local gymnastic meets. They were 1st All-Around in their respective age groups. Their most recent competition was the Disney Wide World of Sports Regional Meet in Orlando with over 100 competitors. Both boys medaled in almost every event.
As for now, regionals are coming up soon, followed by the state championship in Estero, Florida, where they will represent Tampa. They will also be competing in a regional meet at Tropicana Field later this month, where the entire event will be set up on the baseball diamond. If they qualify at states as a top 60 athlete in their age group, they will go to Chattanooga, Tennessee in April for nationals.