The site of the 1994 Winter Olympics, Lillehammer, Norway, held the 2018 baton twirling world championships. Covered in six inches of white ice, the city stayed below twenty degrees fahrenheit. The Hakons Hall arena hosted over six hundred twirlers from seventeen different countries, all competing for a gold medal and the title of world’s best baton twirler. The city buzzed with foreigners and sounded of many different languages, and for the first time the city experienced sparkles and hairspray that can only come from holding the world’s baton championships.
My team and I, known as Team USA, appeared in Norway bundled from head to toe in America gear with a deep feeling of anxiousness, yet we were giddy with excitement. The first day of competition we woke up at six in the morning to drive to the gym for practice. Over and over our coach, Nicole, yelled, “Five, six, seven, eight, pull up, dive, dive, sous sous, catch.” We practiced as she told us to with aching feet and sticky sweat pouring down our faces. Practice felt long and draining, but it seemed worth it to us in hopes it would help us to ultimate victory. After practice we waddled across the ice into the competition at Hakons Hall as a sea of red, white, and royal blue; we were ready to cheer on the USA. As any member of team USA strutted onto the floor, the roaring sound of the crowd filled the arena exclaiming, “USA, USA, USA.” Trying to cheer louder for our team than France cheered for theirs, we surrendered our voice after just day one. Our voices were gone. We repeated these same events for the following four days of competition.
Sunday finally came, and it was my day to compete. Our nerves were at an all-time high, and it was seen in our actions. We could not stand still. We woke up and went to breakfast as usual; our hair was up in a tight bun, and we were clothed in our red, white, and blue team USA warm ups. We arrived at Hakons Hall early and started to do our usual practice, except it wasn’t a usual practice. Drops fell everywhere. No one could catch the baton. Our hearts raced. Nerves were getting to us all, and we could not afford any drops at worlds.
Thirty minutes until we were supposed to be going on the floor, Nicole commanded, “Go put on makeup as extravagant as you can.” We had plum eyeshadow so high that it touched our eyebrows and went out so far it was in our hairline. Then we spread the brightest firetruck red lipstick we could find and slipped on our itchy sparkly uniforms. Appearing as clowns, we were ready now to perform. We were called into the holding area and tears started running down everyone’s face. This was the most scared we have ever been to go on the floor. We knew we were the best team there, but we had to still do great to win because the judges try their best to get any team to beat the USA.
Our biggest competition, Holland, performed right before us, and they had just walked off the floor. It was our time. Due to fear, enough tears rolled down our face to fill a river. We huddled up; the crowd cheered, “I don’t know what I’ve been told, but USA is here for gold. USA. USA. USA.”
Our team collectively chanted, “Let’s run this blockade, appa yip yip.” This saying gets us prepared to twirl our best. Our captain made one last comment before we went on; she said, “We are the best twirling team in this world, and we know it. Let’s get out here and prove it.” Our blood moved faster than ever before; our legs were wet noodles and we prepared our whole life for this moment. We stood in a single file line with our chins held up high and walked onto the slippery floor with confidence.
We squatted into position on the floor, and the announcer proclaimed, “Athletes ready, music start.” We began, hip shake down down down down, point up, and roll. Our pearly white smiles grew huge, and our energy was even bigger. We arrived almost at the end of the routine to the dance section, and I felt weary as if I about puked. The ending of the routine came upon us, and I knew we had done a phenomenal job. We ended the routine with one drop, and we strutted off the floor with more confidence than when we walked on with tears rolling down our faces. My team and I were extremely proud.
Gathered in a circle, we bawled our eyes out because we realized this was our last time twirling together, and this same Team USA will never do another routine together. We also cried because we were overjoyed with the performance we had just done. Everyone hugged and congratulated each other by saying, “Great job, I am so proud of you.” No one could beat us; we knew we were unstoppable. Right then we began to plan our victory party. We were proud and so thankful to be able to be part of such a great team.
Awards time came. They began, and event after event USA won. Each time they announced USA won gold, we turned and faced our faithful flag as the national anthem played. The USA won so many times that day everyone grew tired of hearing our own national anthem. Excited for all of our teammates, we couldn’t wait for our name to be called. With the USA having won twenty-seven out of thirty-three events so far, the announcer began to award my event, the final event. She announced, “Third place with the bronze medal goes to… Holland.” All of team USA’s faces lit up and wide grins formed across our faces. Our biggest competition had just placed third; we knew we were going to win. We then again huddled in a circle and held hands with our heads bowed as the announcer continued by stating, “Second place with the silver medal goes to… The United States of America.” Our heads lifted and we looked at eachother with confusion. “How could this be?” we all wondered. We couldn’t believe all our hard work and talent just placed second when we thought we deserved to win. Our world came to a halt, but the announcer continued by declaring “and the winner of the gold medal and world champion title is awarded to… Norway.” Our hearts sank like a heavy anchor. We stood and faced the Norwegian flag while their national anthem was played through the arena while wet tears rolled down our faces, wondering how that just happened.
I wish I could tell a better ending to the story. Sadly, I can not. This story ends with many sobs, depression, and cancelled victory parties because I wanted the gold just as much as any other country there wanted it, too. Just so happened that I wasn’t the person to win it and life will go on. We slugged our way onto the plane with sorrow. As the plane ascended, I glanced over the frigid country of Norway. With a heart as cold as the Norwegian air, a few sad tears rolled down my face, yet I was ever so grateful for the opportunity to represent my country.