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My usual morning starts at six thirty. Quickly, I change into my navy blue jeans and a white T-shirt and make my bed. Then, I walk from my colorful bedroom into the bare hallway while greeting my wonderful parents with a cheerful “Good Morning”. After that, I brush my teeth, thinking I might need braces or I might have a cavity as I pick up my purple toothbrush. However, I didn’t feel that fresh feeling in my mouth for long because I had to eat breakfast (often peanut butter and jelly, occasionally, cereal, a blueberry bagel, or syrupy pancakes). Lastly, I swing my backpack onto my broad shoulders and head off to school. Seems pretty typical, right?
Well, today was not one of those mornings. I was dreaming about sheep for some mysterious reason when my mom insisted on waking me.
“Mom, you know it’s only four thirty.”
“Yes,” she replied sweetly. “Your father booked an early flight to Philadelphia.”
“What for?” I asked curiously, but still rather exhausted.
“Honey,” she began. “Your Olympic qualifier is today.” What?!? Today? How is that even possible?!? As much as this was unexpected for me, you are (I am assuming) more confused than I am. So something I should have told you before is that I’m a gymnast and have been since I could remember. Everyday now after school, I head straight to the gym and do cartwheels, splits, flips, turns, jumps, etc, for hours in front of my dad, the coach. Because I wanted to focus on school for a while, I haven’t been to as many competitions as some of my peers have. Now this Olympic qualifier (and especially because I forgot that it was today) is definitely putting a five hundred pound weight on top of my shoulders.
During the flight, I heard voices in my head.
“You won’t make the cut,” said some boy at my school who I only half-knew.
“You are fifteen and haven’t even gone to the Olympics let alone competed that much. You don’t stand a chance,” said Lisa, a pessimistic girl in my neighborhood.
“How do you expect to beat world champions when you are as inexperienced as you are? You can’t. It’s impossible,” said an oppressing gymnast.
As soon as I arrived at the Philadelphia gym, I was impatient like a four-year old to start practicing. As I swung myself round and round on the uneven bars, I heard girls laughing, snickering, and smirking at me, causing me to lose concentration and fall off. My dad raced toward me.
“Are you okay?” he asked worriedly.
“Yeah,” I replied slightly short of breath.
“Try again,” he requested. “And remember, don’t let anything distract you. Just you and those bars. Got it?” I nodded.
Several hours later, the qualifier began. My heart beat audibly, and my knees banged against each other as I waited for my turn.
“Do not be so nervous. Just you and the-.”
“I know, Dad,” I replied with a calm but uneasy tone in my voice. When my name was called, I strided toward the bars and spread chalk all over my hands. After taking a deep breath, I launched myself like a rocket into the air. My hands gripped the pole and I swung round and round, did a flip in the air, and flew from the taller bar to the shorter bar and back repeatedly until it was time to land on the soft blue carpet.
“Good job!” said my dad. Next was the beam. On the four-inch wide apparatus, I did dance moves, flips, and jumps from one end to the other, but slightly lost my balance twice.
“Why did you lose your balance?” asked Dad.
“Because part of my concentration was focused on the crowd,” I admitted.
“A great philosopher said once ‘If you make one mistake and you don’t fix it, you really make two mistakes.’ ”
“I am afraid that I have made the same mistake twice, but I promise from here on in that I will remember that.”
The vault was not that difficult. I ran swiftly like a gazelle, jumped in the air, flipped, and struck a good landing. However, I now needed to score a 16* or above on the floor to qualify for the Olympics. My dad saw that I was shaking once more.
“I forgot the routine, Dad.” He did not panic nor did he curse. Taking a deep breath, I stepped onto the floor. Running from one corner to the other, I performed cartwheels and flips. Along the width of the square, I jumped into splits. Hustling from corner to corner again came more cartwheels and flips, but then I noticed that I stepped on the white line, costing a tenth of a point deduction. After bolting from end to end one last time, I just barely landed inside the square and kicked my leg high in the air just as the music stopped. After jogging off, my dad and I huddled together as we waited for the score.
* In 2005, gymnastics officials changed the scoring system. Before the highest score a gymnast could earn was a perfect ten. Now, top performers receive mid to upper sixteens (About.com Gymnastics)