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How to Do a Double Backflip This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


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As I stand in the corner of the floor closest to the gym entrance, my mind races, despite my efforts to calm it. I mentally run through my routines to get my body ready to deliver its maximum energy in the space of a few seconds. A lot needs to happen in a short time, and any stray thought or feeling could be fatal. I'm not being dramatic when I say that. During a tumbling pass, any hesitation can result in not enough speed, not enough rotation, not enough height. Any one of these can ruin a pass with devastating effects. It's best to completely shut down my mind and just trust my body.

I always let gravity begin anything that I'm at all afraid of. It forces me to release my pent-up adrenaline and follow it forward. I take two more steps, gaining speed with each and counting “one two three” in my head, and then I go into my hurdle, raising my arms to my ears and taking a long, low skip.

To prepare for a tumbling pass, I have a routine. I lock my left arm against my side and rotate my hand back and forth, as if signaling a “maybe,” shaking my fingers completely loose. I close my eyes and run through the motions that I need to perform perfectly at each moment in order to make a trick work: flinging up my arms, chin, eyes, and chest, then pulling one knee to my chest, pantomiming a tuck. I wipe my hands dry of any moisture, real or imagined, and lean down to grab both my knees to be sure that my grip won't fail me.

I roll a small piece of chalk between my palms, just in case, and dig out a sliver to put in my mouth. The gritty, thick feeling of the chalk against my teeth focuses my attention and energy.

Again I surrender to gravity, letting it pull my hands, arms, shoulders, head, and chest toward the ground as I twist them around and whip my feet overhead in a powerful round-off. I come up facing the opposite direction that I began in, with my feet slightly ahead. I am falling backward.

At this point, I visualize the spotter I had the first time I ever went for this particular pass: a tall, gangly man with black curly hair, glasses, and a prominent nose. He's dressed in a white T-shirt and black pants, and is standing in the far corner, next to a thick landing mat. In my mind, he says the same thing he did a year ago: “It's just a double back.”

There is a special absurdity in his statement. A double backflip is the most dangerous trick I have ever done on the floor, not because of its complexity, but because of the sheer power requirements. I've seen only one other person do it in this gym. “It's just a double back” recognizes that I am physically the most powerful person in the room, and although I acknowledge the danger, nobody else here is more qualified to face it. So I don't think about it. Denial is a great confidence builder.

I take the velocity and amplify it, increasing the speed and arching my upper body backward, driving my hands into the ground as fast as possible and whipping my legs over again, driving them down and pushing myself upright. I keep my hands above my head in a set, a move I practiced earlier, reaching up to send my body knifing up as high as I can.

This is the final stage of my mental preparation. My focus is set and I feel a sharp spike of adrenaline building in my chest and throat, the edge of an internal cliff I am about to leap off of, the need for my energy to be released that gives me the ability to do this crazy thing.

Then I tuck.

Flipping is not how you might imagine it. I don't spin; the world spins around me. I see a blur of colors, feel the speed and the air. I can't see how high I am, or if I'm about to hit the ground, or if I'm upside down or right side up. I'm utterly lost, and all I can do is hold on and hope that everything I've done up to this moment was right. There is an intense fear beneath it all, but the power is unstoppable.

Then I land.

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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