More Than Gold This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

     “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 work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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