“Up next on the high beam is number seven of team Desert Devils!” I heard the announcer broadcast. Raising my eyes to the crowd, I saw my family grinning, ready to watch. Quickly looking back to the judges, I waited for their salute. My stomach was filled with anxious butterflies; the balance beam was my specialty. After they scrutinized my stance, they gave me approval to begin. I slowly inhaled as I mounted the beam, and suddenly I was effortlessly gliding across the narrow surface, lost in my routine.
Gymnastics has consumed my life from ages five to eleven. Practicing 15 hours a week, the sport molded me into a hard-working, goal-
setting child filled with aspirations. I still remember one particular stunt that, for whatever reason, I could not seem to master. I dreaded the front hip circle on the high bar. Even with my teammates encouraging me, I could never follow through with the final turn. Knowing that a state competition was just around the corner, I realized I could cost my team the gold medal. Why can’t I do this? I’m the only one who can’t master this trick! The way I saw it, I was a failure if I couldn’t do what seemed impossible.
The coaches pushed us to our limits. Passing out or throwing up was common, and if we didn’t push ourselves, we were viewed as quitters. I suppose that is why I was so affected by my inability to master that front hip circle.
The day before the competition, my coaches and I planned a slight change in my routine that eliminated the front hip circle. We all knew that this would dock me major points, but it was our only option. I had given up for the first time in my life.
The next day, I was a nervous wreck. This competition was crucial; winning the Arizona State Competition would put us above our closest rival. As I did my floor and vault routines, my mind was preoccupied with the high bar. It was not until I mounted the balance beam that a sense of rationality persuaded me that I was a powerful being who controlled my future. This epiphany gave me great strength as I finished my balance beam routine with a score of 9.3. I moved to my high bar routine and for whatever reason, I suddenly felt as if I could accomplish anything. I could do the front hip circle, I just knew I could! Shakily continuing the routine that my coaches had decided was too difficult, I plunged forward with all my might and thrust my body over the top of the bar.
Time stopped as I felt my body make a full rotation around the bar. But this time I didn’t fall off as I rounded the last turn! No, I did, a feat I had thought impossible. I grinned as I finished with a strong sense of passion. I looked to my coaches as I dismounted and waited for their reaction. Their faces glowed with pride as they told me they had always believed in me, I just hadn’t believed in myself. That competition awarded our overall team the gold medal. I was also personally awarded the gold medal for my balance beam routine, but nothing was more rewarding than what I had accomplished on the high bar.
That one competition rewarded me with more than a gold medal. That day I not only learned how important inner strength is, but also how miraculous believing in yourself can be. I never realized that I had the ability to control my own life until that moment. I always felt my parents, coaches, or friends were the leaders whom I followed. Sometimes you have to follow your own heart to realize that it is possible to conquer the impossible.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.