MEMPHIS, Tenn. — One young Black woman in Memphis is flipping the gymnastics world upside down and bending over backwards to make it more accessible for young Black athletes — all while being a Tennessee Gymnastics Hall-of-Famer.
Britney Taylor-Owens goes full out when it comes to breaking barriers in gymnastics.
"I'm the only African American competitive gymnastics facility in the entire state of Tennessee, and I'm also the youngest gym owner in the state of Tennessee," Taylor-Owens said.
The 32-year-old Memphian went from renting a space in Southaven to opening her very own — Taylor'ed Gymnastics Training Center in East Memphis last December, mounting her career and quickly gaining momentum.
"I went to 30 kids; then I went to 40 kids, then I went to 50 kids. Now, I'm almost at 100 students moving over here ... so, when you see a banner and we have like first or second that's a big accomplishment. A lot of times my teams only consisted of three girls — the minimum requirement — and we were going up against teams of like 20."
Owens' path to success was not a straight line. Facing obstacles since starting the sport at 3 years old, often receiving criticism from her own peers.
"When I grew up in this sport, I got teased a lot," she said. "I was told a lot of times I was going to be a failure — I was never going to succeed. I had girls spit on me. Yes, I went through it all."
Managing the cost was a balancing act.
"My mom probably spent like $500-$600 a month," she said.
After graduating as the only Black gymnast from Ridgewway High School, she attended Central Michigan and Louisiana State University on full-ride scholarships.
"The first day they wanted us to go swimming, I had a perm," she said. "I'm looking at them like, 'I can't get in this water.' I was the only African American girl on the team."
Still, that didn't stop her from becoming an all-around standout, breaking records as a decorated collegiate gymnast in the vault; bars, beams and floor. Now, she's added Tennessee Gymnastics Hall-of-Famer to her list of accolades.
"To be inducted into the hall of fame at the same time where some of those same people were the ones that told me I was going to be a failure and never amount to anything — and to be inducted in with them — felt great."
Just like sticking the landing.
"I guess I'm just blessed to be in a situation like this and do something I love and be able to help my community at the same time," she said.
Editor's Note: We initially reported Owens was the youngest gym owner in the state of Tennessee, but this was incorrect. We have since corrected the story to reflect this.