Competition Time: The Final Moment

January 10, 2009
By Brittney Rizo, Braintree, MA

As I wait backstage insecurities set in. The dwindling clock slowly counts down, as each grain of sand slips through the hour glass. The smell of sweat and body odor flows through my nose creating a repulsive scent. In the background, my competitor’s voices enter my head, psyching me out, and questioning my capabilities. As my coaches walk toward the ice surface, I follow; it is time to compete.
Stepping on to the ice, frigid air fills my lungs and goose bumps erupt on my skin. My eyes suddenly become dry and the aroma of mini-donuts from the snack stand fills the arena. Everything that has happened up to this point does not matter anymore: it is just me. As the crowd begins to cheer, I am overwhelmed with a brief moment of comfort, until the sensation is abruptly ripped away like a swindler snatching a purse. Suddenly all is quiet; and as the comforting sensation disappears because doubts and uncertainties creep into my mind. The monster in my stomach begins to dance, shaking and shimmying against my digestive intestines. My dry, sandpaper like mouth causes me gag, wishing for one more swig of water. As I glace at my calm and collected coaches- for one last look of security -the announcer calls out my name. Skating over to my beginning pose my mind goes blank and I begin to take my last few breaths- these are the final moments.

The ardent music goes on and the crowd becomes involved. They followed every element I execute perfectly, clapping, encouraging, cheering. Excited yet apprehensive, secure yet indecisive, I began my usual routine. Suddenly, everything feels easy, like the early Saturday morning practices, or the late school nights slaying over the program. It all becomes normal, but it feels like an illusion. The impartial judges sit and carp at the performance, critiquing every single thing that is done, because in their eyes, nothing is perfect. Remaining focused throughout the whole routine, I suddenly realize something: the moment is almost over. The numb legs, heavy breath and cramped feet attempt to immobilize me- but I do no relinquish. Finally the crowd erupts as I land the last jump, the last trick, the last thing ceasing me. I finally hit the ending pose, struggling to breathe, and in denial of what I just did. Bowing to the crowd I see my family, leaping from the chairs and cheering from the top of their lungs. My parents were thrilled; my coaches, proud. It is a brief feeling of ecstasy, the kind that brings a smile to your face and fills your body with warmth. All of the doubts, all of the insecurities, all of the fears that once filled my mind seem lost in a pile of emotions.

Standing there with hundreds of people watching you receive the award, the award you have worked so hard towards all year. Friends, family and strangers mixed together like a solution of joy and effervescence. Thinking of all of the four hour practices, filled with stress and exhaustion, I look down at my medal, my accomplishment, my prize, and suddenly realized it is all worth it. The hard, shiny, bronze medal with the red, white and blue ribbon around my neck gave me a sensation of triumph, relief, and self approval, nothing else seemed to matter. It became my symbol of accomplishments, my symbol of victory, and my symbol of love for the sport. And even though my mind sometimes fills itself with hesitation, the second I step on the ice, everything becomes normal again, it is just another practice.

The author's comments:
I wrote this the week after I recieved third place at the United States National Figure Skating Competition. It was a year I overcame many obstacles; however, through it all i still achieved my goal. I never wanted to forget this experience so i put it in writing so i will hopefully never forget all of the emotions i felt. My 365 days of training came down to this final hour, this final moment.

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