Gymnasty

If there was ever a most hated girl in the world, it was Vicki Moredenzo. She looked like a supermodel, with long legs, smooth skin with no freckles or birthmarks, bright glowing blue eyes with a touch of green around the pupil and floaty whitish-blonde hair. She was the school Valedictorian, the star of every school play and the star of the school gymnastics team, The Bullets (on which she had won several medals). She did contortion, and she won the school talent show every year with her singing act. Her stories (which she always wrote in her disgustingly perfect handwriting) were published in the paper. She had been in several TV commercials and on every Kohl’s ad in the country, and if Weston Hills Middle School had been Seventeen magazine, Vicki Moredenzo would always have made the front cover. On top of all this, she was also the snobbiest brat in the history of the world.

I also competed for the Bullets with my two closest friends, Alyssa and Adrielle. Sitting with them in the car on the way to Tuesday practice, I was thinking of my greatest achievement – I was to lead the Bullets at Nationals! What an honor! I just hoped that Vicki wouldn’t do something overshadow it somehow. But then again there was nothing she could do! Sure, she could say all she wanted, but that was the limits of what she could do. If she took any physical offence, Coach Miranda could have her kicked off the team, and I knew Vicki wouldn’t risk that.

At the start of practice that afternoon, Coach Miranda surprised me. We usually start with a bars warm-up, but today, we started with floor – my favorite! If you ask me, nothing beats front walkovers and round-off back handspring-back layouts. But if anything can ruin something as great as that, it’s having Vicki Moredenzo be in the spotlight.

As we lined up to do a complex tumbling pass, Vicki was chosen to come up to the front of the line and go first.

She smiled haughtily and with her chin raised, she stood and saluted Coach Miranda, arms by her head and back arched. Then she took a deep breath and went for her pass. She finished her power hurdle round-off three back-handsprings to back layout, back-handspring, back tuck with a flourish and flip of her ponytail. Alyssa and I rolled our eyes. Adrielle wasn’t paying attention. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a totally sweet girl, but she has a tendency to go off into her own imaginary world. As a result, most things roll off her back and don’t bother her. I envy her that.

After her pass, I noticed Coach complimenting Vicki on her confidence and grace.

Whatever.

Two weeks before Nationals, Coach Miranda made an announcement.

“Girls,” she said, once we were seated in a semi-circle (Coach liked to have us sit in pike when she spoke to us). “You all know about our upcoming meet.”

We all nodded. How could we forget? It was in only two weeks! No one forgot Nationals, especially not me. I mean, I was leading our team! I looked over at Alyssa and Adrielle, but they just shrugged. I turned my attention back to Coach Miranda.
“Well, there have been some changes. For one, the alternate routines will be used.” I winced slightly. The alternate routines were not my best. But then Coach went on.
“For another, Vicki Moredenzo will be leading the warm-ups and practices these next two weeks, in preparation for the meet.” Coach beamed. “I’ve decided to let her lead our team at Nationals. Any questions?”

Oh, I had questions all right. Like, why’d she replace me?! Sure, the alternate routines were not my best, but Vicki leading at Nationals? That was supposed to be my job this year! Coach Miranda and I had agreed on that! I pointed my toes harder until they cramped. What was it with teachers and coaches always picking Vicki for everything, for every opportunity? When I looked over at Vicki, she had a satisfied smirk on her face. I refrained from making a rude remark. Fine. If Vicki Moredenzo was going to lead the Bullets at Nationals, then so be it. I just hoped coach didn’t except any miracles, just because Vicki was leading us all. That kind of stuff only happens in movies.


The following practices went the same as usual, if you ignored the fact that Vicki was leading them. I still couldn’t believe that Coach Miranda had done that to me, and hadn’t even offered any explanation, either.

Vicki continually found something wrong with everything that I did. It was either – “Deborah, point your toes,” – or – “Keep your arms straight, Debbie!”. She knew I hated when people called me Debbie. Deb was fine, but not Debbie. Which is probably why she did it. She got on everyone else’s back too, although not as much as mine. I suppose it was because I was the only one who had ever had the courage to stand up to her, even if it was just telling her off for something as miniscule as her stealing my favorite scrunchie. Adrielle didn’t mind getting bothered by Vicki, of course. Which is probably why she got picked on the least – because it had no effect. I’ll bet most of the time Adrielle didn’t even notice Vicki ridiculing her.

If Vicki thought we were such a badly skilled team, how did she expect the Bullets to win? Maybe she figured that after all our horrible routines, she would prance forward onto the floor with a shining corona of hope around her, as if she were our savior and crank out a gorgeous routine, each move executed with immaculate perfection and so ‘wow’ the judges, that they would announce that all on behalf of her and her glorious, unmasked talent, she had redeemed us all and our team had placed first. I wouldn’t put it past her.


“Kip to the low bar, straddle handstand, back hip circle undershoot still holding the bar, swing to pull-over, cast, jump up, kip to the high bar, clear hip, front hip circle, cast single leg shoot through, mill circle, leg cut, slow back hip circle undershoot still holding the bar, swing into back tuck dismount. That’s it.” Vicki explained.
“I already know all that Vicki! I know the routines inside and out – I’ve been doing gymnastics longer than you/for ten years!” I countered.

Vicki had been explaining the whole alternate routine to me as if I didn’t know it. I may not be as good at the alternate routines as I am at the regular ones, but she was treating me like I was a kindergartener, and she had been doing it all day; finding fault in everything I did, every move, no matter how well timed, no matter how impeccable. She was making me crazy.

Vicki raised one eyebrow and smiled as if she didn’t believe me. “The way your routine just looked certainly doesn’t suggest that.”

“Yes it does, and you know it! That routine could’ve gotten me a 9.8 at a meet!” I was standing with my arm out pointing at the bars. My arm was practically shaking with anger. “You know it! You do!”

Coach Miranda came out of nowhere and put her hand on my arm, trying to calm me down.

“Hey!” she said. “We can all get along.” It didn’t work. I turned on her.

“How come you side with her? That routine was perfect! A blind person could tell! She’s been on my back ever since you picked her to lead our team! She comes up with things that I didn’t do right, and none of them are true! Why did you replace me anyway?” I was in hysterics by now, trying to keep myself from crying. Everyone was stopping what they were doing to listen, their faces deadpan. Vicki was smiling as if she knew Coach would stay sided with her and put me in my place. But I didn’t care, and Coach was too busy with me to notice.

“Why? Why? Because she has better handwriting than me? Because she was in commercials and wins the talent show every year?”

Coach frowned. When she spoke, it was very softly. “When I picked her, I was thinking of what was best for this team you’re standing on, because I think she can lead it better. I didn’t think you were this selfish.” She sounded so disappointed, like she really believed what she was saying. Oh well.

I opened my mouth to say more, but Coach took my by the arm before I could and said, “I think you need a time out.”


I was so mad. As I sat in the office where Coach Miranda had put me to cool off, I considered something I had never considered before – quitting gymnastics. When I first thought of it, I hiccupped and almost started crying. But after a while of toying with the idea, it sounded more welcoming. I could always go to some other facility, like a YMCA, or something. But then I wouldn’t be competing fore my school anymore, or with my friends. Besides, I had been training here for ten years – almost my whole life. Who knew how long it would take to earn the respect of the coaches at another gym, enough to lead my team at a meet, especially one as important as Nationals? Or even state?

Then Coach Miranda walked in. I looked up at her and made an angry face. I wanted her to feel unwelcome, because she was. She didn’t seem to notice, or she just didn’t care. Either way, she made herself comfortable next to me.

“I want to talk to you,” she said. I didn’t particularly want to talk. So I just ignored her.

“What I did was wrong.” So she came to apologize? That’s nice. Not.

“I changed my mind and picked Vicki because I let all her other achievements cloud my judgment. I figured, ‘if she can sing and be a model and do contortion and make valedictorian, and she’s already great at gymnastics, then she can lead this team like no one ever has before.’ Y’know what I mean? But I had picked you because not only are you a good gymnast, but you work hard and try hard and never give up. And that’s as good a reason as any.” She paused and looked me in the eye. “I’m so sorry.”

I understood. Miranda was my coach of ten years, and I could never stay mad at her for long. Plus, she really was sorry, and I could tell. I felt all sad and warm and mushy inside, like all my insides were going to come gushing out my mouth and nose.

“It’s ok,” I said, my voice cracking and the rock in my throat getting bigger. “It’s ok.” I said it again because I couldn’t think of anything else to say. We hugged, and even thought I already knew the answer, I asked, “Do I have the job back?” Believe it or not, right after asking I wasn’t as sure.

“Consider it done,” Coach Miranda said with a smile. “I’ve already talked to Vicki about it. Although she’s not too happy about it.” She looked at me. “Practice is almost over. Wanna come finish up with us?”

“Sure.” I slid off my chair and followed her out the door.


I dusted chalk onto my grip-covered hands and bounced on the springboard, examining the girl across from me. She wore a long sleeved sky blue leotard, a direct contrast to my long sleeved dark purple leo. She was looking around somewhat nervously, and starting at the bars in front of her. I didn’t blame her. Cameras panned along us; after all, this was Nationals – gymnasts competing from all across America – so there was a live TV crew broadcasting us here. I finished testing the give of the springboard, and stepped back down.

One of the judges waved a tiny pink flag, and I saluted. I hopped onto the springboard once again, adjusting my grips one last time as I went. Then I sprang into action.

My hands came in contact with the bar, and my legs shot out into a straddle. As I swung forward, I brought my legs together, putting my thighs to the bar and swinging up, executing a perfect kip. I whipped through the rest of my routine with ease. I dismounted, stuck, finished, and saluted once more, then looked up to see my score. The judges scribbled and whispered a bit longer, then my score popped up: 9.75! Phew. I hadn’t expected to do that good. I stepped back to watch the other girl perform her routine. All the way through, she did fine, until her dismount came. Actually, her dismount was fine, but her landing wasn’t good. She almost stuck it, but then landed on her butt. Her score plummeted accordingly: a measly 8.4. I saw her walk back to her team who hugged her and sympathized.

Next it was Vicki’s turn. I prayed that she would fall. But I knew it wasn’t likely. As far as I knew, Vicki had never screwed up before, so there was so reason for her to now. She would probably score a perfect ten or a 9.9, and then we really would win first place. I guess that in theory, that would be good, but I didn’t want to have to owe it all to her. That would be almost as bad as losing, and besides, she was already stuck up enough as it was. I didn’t want her to have yet another reason to be snooty.

She walked up, her head held high and smiling as if she expected to get a perfect 10. She saluted the judges with more pride than she had for Coach Miranda matter of days before. I think I even saw one of the judges smile. Great, she was getting on their good sides. She tossed her ponytail over her shoulder as she prepared to jump.

The cameras followed her every move. She flew through her routine, each switch and turn perfect. Then, on her second giant – she fell.

Vicki looked scared. When was the last time she had fallen? I couldn’t remember. She screamed, and when she landed – awkwardly on the right side of her body – she started crying. It didn’t even look like it could’ve hurt all that bad. Her score popped up, and when she looked up at it, she cried all the harder: 7.8 Her mother (who looked like a grown-up version of Vicki – or perhaps the other way around) was already out of her seat and storming over to scream at the judges.

“You can’t count that!” she screeched. “Vicki never messes up! Never!”

Coach Miranda was at Vicki’s side, helping her into a back room where she could take a break. The security guards went after her mom.

I didn’t want to feel mean, but I was glad that she fell. Actually, I was ecstatic beyond belief that she fell, because she so richly deserved it. It was finally payback for all that she had done. The rest of the meet went by without her.


The next day I was eating a bowl of raisin bran and thinking about the meet. We had won first place, and we didn’t have Vicki to thank for that. Part of it was my surprising score on all apparatuses, which Coach congratulated me on afterwards. I could tell even she was surprised. Vicki never got back out to compete, because she said she was too embarrassed to face all those cameras. I was surprised she even admitted that. So like her to abandon her team when every member was needed most. Maybe she realized she wasn’t the whole team, and that we weren’t doomed without her, because she left with her mom around the time the winners were announced. My guess is that she thought our team would win and she couldn’t bear to watch us get announced without her.

I was finishing up my cereal when the phone rang. My mom answered.

“Yes… oh, really? Her eyes widened slightly.

“Who is it?” I asked. Mom waved her hand impatiently for me to be quiet.

“Oh. I see. Well, I’ll be sure to tell her.” She paused. “Ok, talk to you later. Bye.” She hung up.

I was anxious to know what she had heard. “Tell me what? Who was that?” Mother pulled out a chair next to me and sat.

“That was your coach. She called to let us know that Vicki quit the Bullets.”

“Quit?” I asked in amazement. As much as I disliked Vicki, I was surprised she had quit. It never seemed like something she would do.

“Why did she quit? It’s not just because she fell, is it?”

“I don’t know.” My mother responded. “Although that is Miranda’s guess. But all she knows is that Vicki quit, and she isn’t coming back.”

“But she loves the spotlight, especially in gymnastics. Why would she want to leave it behind, all on account of a fall? Lots of people fall.” I paused. “Maybe she’ll just go to a different team.” I shuddered at the thought. Despite her bad attitude she was a great gymnast, and I hated thinking of having to compete against her. If we did, we’d probably lose. We didn’t have any especially talented gymnasts besides her, and now she was gone. Even if she didn’t make up our whole team, her opposing us could put us out of any competition pretty quickly.

Mom spoke up. “No, she made it clear she wasn’t going back into gymnastics. She might be moving on to greener pastures or something.”

I frowned. “Nothing’s greener than gymnastics,” I muttered.

Then my mother spoke in an almost regretful tone. “But an aspiring gymnast at a level like that, and at such a young age… she could’ve gone places. Maybe to the Olympics even. All those years of training… what a waste.” She shook her head.

Yes, it was a waste. I agreed with that. However, I didn’t care where she could’ve gone. Shocking as the news was, I was just grateful that she had left.

I rinsed my bowl and put it in the sink, then went and packed my gym bag for our four-hour practice that day after school. It was the first practice in two years that I had been so looking forward to. Because for the first time in a long time, Vicki Moredenzo wasn’t going to be there.





Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback