Blind gymnast takes gold at national championship


ORLANDO, Fla. (WFLA) – A young gymnast from St. Petersburg who is blind in one eye took home a gold medal after competing in a national championship this weekend. 

Twelve-year-old Riley Brown trains at Bayside Sports Academy in St. Petersburg. But over the weekend, she was in Orlando to compete in the AAU Gymnastics Nationals at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

Riley can’t see at all out of her left eye, but that didn’t stop her from dominating the competition. Her mom tells us she won first place overall in the Level 6 group, earning a gold medal. 

Riley’s parents say their daughter’s blindness is the result of a severe reaction to a common over-the-counter medication. She suffered the allergic reaction when she was just 3, and was diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, or SJS.

In the beginning, they said they weren’t sure she was going to make it. But she overcame the odds and found success in the world of competitive gymnastics.

“This is her life,” her father Paul said. “She eats, sleeps and drinks it. And she goes four hours a night, three nights a week and she would go five if they would let her.”

“I do not know how she does it,” her mom Kristin added. “I do not even know if I want to know the answer. It is a beautiful mystery and I am glad she has this, this one thing that she can feel good about.”

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