Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Dave Brown Memorial Gymnastics Meet Honors Astronaut’s Legacy

The annual Dave Brown Memorial Gymnastics Meet will remember the life and legacy of Astronaut Dave Brown. (Williamsburg Gymnastics)

WILLIAMSBURG — As it does every year, Williamsburg Gymnastics, the official training home of William & Mary gymnastics, is preparing to honor the legacy of NASA astronaut Dave Brown.

Brown, born and raised in Arlington, was a member of the William & Mary men’s gymnastics team and one of the first gymnasts to score in the nines on the vault. The summer after his sophomore year, he performed as an acrobat, tumbler, and stilt walker in the circus.

During his time at William & Mary, Brown also earned his pilot’s license. After graduating in 1978, Brown went on to earn his M.D. from Eastern Virginia Medical School in 1982. He then entered the U.S. Navy, where he was a flight surgeon beginning in 1984.

He was officially selected for NASA in 1996. During his time with NASA, Brown served as a mission specialist. His job was to support payload development for the International Space Station. He also was part of the astronaut support team responsible for orbiter cockpit setup, crew strap-in, and landing recovery. He flew aboard STS-107 and logged 15 days, 22 hours, and 20 minutes in space.

In February 2003, Brown was a member of the Space Shuttle Columbia crew that perished upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

In his memory, Pete, a former gymnast himself, and Cindy Walker (owners of Williamsburg Gymnastics) began the Dave Brown Memorial Gymnastics Meet in 2004. Originally started as an endowment to keep gymnastics at the college, the meet now also helps to raise funds to purchase new and updated equipment for Williamsburg Gymnastics.

Dave Brown (NASA)

As Pete and Cindy prepare for the meet each year, they discuss Brown with their gymnasts and educate them on the man he was.

“We talk about Dave in such a positive way with the kids. We always talk about how he was a William & Mary student, and how he had a passion for gymnastics, and flying, and academics was important to him. We really want our kids to understand that with hard work, anything is possible. When Dave succeeded, we all succeeded, when he thrived, we all thrived, and when he died, each of us had a little piece that died,” Cindy said.

According to Pete, the opportunity to host the meet is about much more than gymnastics — it’s skills for life.

“This meet really reminds the kids of our core values. We really talk to them about what Dave Brown stood for, his work ethic, striving to be the best with what you are given. That’s the Dave Brown ideal, to be true scholar-athletes, to be a good teammate for a lifetime, and to inspire others,” Pete said.

The meets are split between two different weekends. On Dec. 2 and 3, the men will compete, from levels 3 to 10 and club bronze-diamond. On Dec. 9 and 10, the women will compete from levels 2 to 10 and xcel bronze-diamond. Awards will take place following each meet. The full schedule of the meet is available on the Williamsburg Gymnastics website.

As Pete and Cindy look back on 20 years of the meet, they are grateful to the gymnastics community for always coming out and supporting the athletes, while remembering the legacy that Brown left behind.

“This meet is our labor of love. We really love hosting it. The judges look forward to it, the coaches look forward to it, the kids look forward to it, our parents look forward to it. Everyone loves doing this, it’s a lot of work but it’s a lot of fun at the same time. To continue to experience the support from the community, it shows us that we’ve done our job of providing a safe, loving, and supportive environment for kids to do gymnastics,” Cindy said.

Adult tickets to the men’s meet are $5, there is no cost for the women’s meet. Concessions will be available for purchase on both meet weekends. For more information on the meet, visit williamsburggymnastics.com.

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