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Pushed Off the Podium

I am so thankful that I switched gymnastics gyms, if I had stayed at my old gymnastic school; I would still be, honestly, as skilled as a third grader. At my new school, everything is entirely better, and different.

My little brother loved the kiddie gymnastics classes at the old gymnastics school. Every week, for one hour, he would go and have a lot of fun. I would sit on the observatory deck, my eyes wondering over to the competitive gymnasts. My brother would be scared of swinging on the bar, he would not hold on for more than three seconds. The “big” gymnasts jumped right onto the bar and went all the way around it several times, gaining speed each rotation. Finally they would let go, do two flips in a row, and land on the soft mat as they rolled onto their backs. I decided that I was going to learn that, simply for the reason the big gymnasts did the most mind-numbing tricks that I have ever seen. I thought then only age separated them from me.

I look down at the little kids at my new school, and start to wonder what my life would have been like had I started here. I look back at my first year, and think of all the crazy things I have done, things that I have wanted to do since I was so naïve, since I did not know what it took to do those things.

I started taking the children’s classes with my brother, and class by class, I was getting better and better. It was all about learning the basics, and maybe a few “advanced” moves here and there. My brother looked more and more pathetic as I got better. One time, I was in a make-up class since I had missed one, for whatever reason. Everyone else was doing forward rolls on a sloped mat, except me. I was doing back-handsprings. Only one person in that class had gotten to that point yet, and I was simply elated, since there were about ten or so others with me. Finally, I had reached the point where I could participate in a recreational competition.

My competition game has gotten so much more confident since I started training at my new school. I just get embarrassed when I think of the fear that I had before I was training the right way. I have so many ribbons, each of them rightly in my possession, rightly taken away from someone else. It has has taught me that this is what fun is.

Warm-ups were complete. This turn would be judged and given a number between 0 and 10. I had trained so hard for this day; I couldn’t imagine really getting below an eight, since my coach had said that my routines were really good. I presented to the judge. I looked at the rings hanging there, still. My coach lifted me up, my hands wrapped around the rings. I am stopped of all motion. Everything that happened in the next forty seconds was all up to me, and judged. I started swinging, making sure that my toes were pointed, and there were no bends in my legs. My body went upside down. I did everything in my power to hold myself there. I started lowering my body, the muscles in my shoulders started burning. I was trying to make my body 180 degrees straight, completely parallel to the floor. I hung down now, my shoulders were really burning, but I still had to endure it just a few more seconds. I let go. I didn’t move my feet. I presented to the judge. My rings routine was complete. Just five more events. That was probably the easiest one.

Conditioning your body to handle everything, the endurance you need for 12 warm-up routines ( two on each event) before you actually compete, the muscles you need to be able to do the skills, safely, and the best, is very important at my new school. We spend one and a half hours doing this every practice. The other two hours are for skills.

Standing up on the podium was great. There were only five guys, so everyone got a ribbon at the recreational competition. I got mostly seconds and thirds, and one or two fifths. We were all placed, and ranked. But this really escaped my mind one or two days later. It was not a serious competition. A serious competition is just a little different.

Three practices for three and a half hours every week, including holidays is quite a commitment. During the summer it is four hours for four days a week, every week of the summer. Plus an optional camp which gives you eighty hours of practice over the span of two weeks, which is eight hours a day. My new school knows how to prepare you for competition.

Two years later, after that first recreational competition, I was taking part in a real competition. The scoring system allowed for a maximum of sixteen as your score. My team and I had trained 9 hours a week for the past four months in preparation for the season. It was the first competition, two hours away, in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. The results will stare at me for the rest of my life. The judges here were unfamiliar, and they wore suits. It was the one of the most frightening things I have experienced. Their mouths silently said “we will find every mistake you will make, and you will pay for it.” I presented. I started my routine. I made my mistakes. I finished my routine. I looked at my scores. All were below a 10. The awards ceremony lasted one and a half hours, and my age group was last. Everyone else on my team got called up for this and that. Even the kid that fooled around and did nothing every practice placed on something except me.

There are winners. There are losers. Not everyone can be a winner. You are not the best. There is always someone better than you. Someone is better than you at the one thing you think you are best at. The only way to be better than the person right above you is to work harder, and work right. And once you have pushed that person off the podium, someone else will push you off the podium. So you must push them off too.

So I went to a new school And I pushed a lot of people off that podium in the last year. But there were plenty of others that pushed me off as well. It hurt when I hit the ground.





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