Saturday, February 19, 2011

Think Spring 2011

I haven't posted much about my own personal gymnastics so I figured that's what I would do tonight. These last two months have been crazy; so many ups and downs in the gym. My own desire to continue on in the sport that I fell in love with 17 years ago had nearly been extinguished less than a month ago. I didn't even know if I was going to be able to continue on through the rest of the season. For the first time in my life, I actually felt ready to move on. During the past couple of months, I've felt like I've been stuck. And not so much as in 'gymnastics skill-wise,' it's more of a feeling of not being able to grow up. Normally, life does that for you. You get kicked down and you grow wiser, you go through puberty and grow 3 inches taller, (and wider) and you face things in life that ultimately make you grow up. I've been through it all, and yet for the first time in my life, I was given the choice: Remain in a world of childhood or get out of it, begin a career and grow old gracefully. I know I'm not an elite, whose making money to come back and conquor setbacks. I know I'm not going to get a college gymnastics scholarship; or even be a college gymnast. I am solely living in this sport for the pure joy of it. I came back to finish what I've started and that's what this one season is all about.

This season I conquored fears. Fears I've dealt with for years. I re-learned a whip 1/2, punch front pike on floor. I re-learned a yurchenko and even plan on competing it at the next meet. I mastered flyaways and easily do them by myself anywhere, and I do double back flyaways as long as a coach is standing by. I no longer have any fear of these skills that gave me so much trouble for years.

This season was about forgiveness. My past coach, Michelle and I had gone through many years of difficulty, disagreements and disputes. When I left 3 1/2 years ago, for a new gym, I never thought we would find peace in each others presence. I never thought I would ever come back here, to this home. And when she invited me back, 6 months ago, I didn't know how long we could work together. Things have changed within the past month. She is no longer at this gym, but I know that we have both forgiven one another. I have made an past-enemy, a friend.

A dream I had had for many years, came true this year. Norm and Laurie both stepped back into the gym and it has been incredible having them as coaches. It has been something I have wanted since I was a level 6, and for the first time in my life, I can officially say that they are my coaches.

I have watched my teammates grow up. I trained with them when they were all level 6's and I was a level 9, 5 years ago. Now, they are currently level 9's with me and it has been such an incredible experience. I have never been this close to a group of gymnasts in my life. The only time I can compare this experience to, was being at GGC 2 years ago. But even that can't compared to how much I have learned to depend and support these girls! And all the girls, level 4 through 9, have made this experience this year the coolest one I've ever had!

Today marked the annual 'Think Spring' gymnastics meet.
In 2001, as a level 5, it was here, at this meet where I would earn my first gold medal in the sport of gymnastics. How ironic because I never won Think Spring again... until today.

I didn't know how today would play out.
I knew I had missed gym on Monday, that I had left early on Tuesday, that I had struggled on Wednesday and that I would have one of the best practices I can ever remember, on Thursday.
I knew that my endurance hasn't fully been there, that minor injuries were nagging me a bit, that I was struggling daily to just go into the gym and that my skills had been so-so.
I knew that I currently didn't have a vault. That I hadn't done a full floor routine in practice, or a full bar routine with the straddle back to toe-hect combination.

What I did know was that I was painting my nails, black and red, for my final home meet. That I was going to have fun and do my absolute best. And I knew that this was just one more test for the final meets to come this season.

I was surprised then when I managed to connect my series and stay on beam. I had a few mis-steps. I missed my leap, jump combination and my dismount was sloppy. I got a decent 8.55 and tied for first with teammate, Tamara.

We went in a strange order. Instead of going to floor next, we headed to vault. I knew I just wanted to get this event over with. I did one warmup front handspring and one competition front handspring. 7.675...Ugh
Kelsey and SB took 1st and 2nd on this event.

Bars was next. This was a testing event to see how I dealt with nerves. To make matters worse, I didn't have time to warm up a second straddle back, toe-hect since I didn't make it on my first warm up. When it was my turn, I planned in my mind not to do the toe-hect, although there was also a notion in my head that perhaps, because of all the bad straddle backs I had done in practice and in warm up, if I just held my feet together and waited to let go, maybe I would do a phenomanal one. It was just my luck. I hit the straddle back handstand and pulled my feet on the bar, one at a time to complete the toe-hect. Unfortuantly, I wasn't in the greatest position out of the toe-hect and even though I pulled a kip out of my a$*, I didn't have enough momentum to cast. Good god, it was one ugly cast. Not even horizontal, yet I managed to get a giant out of it. I didn't think I'd make it over on the giant, but I did. I felt myself turn in my blind 1/1. It felt sloppy. And then another slowwww giant into a double back that peeled off rather early. I pulled in tight and my feet managed to find the floor. I was so surprised I had managed to stay on the bar. Sheer grit! They gave me a rewarding 8.75, and the wrong sv. A 9.8 instead of the 9.9 it was supposed to be. Oh well, I was still 'overly' happy with the score I had recieved for such a sloppy performance.

Floor was last and by this time, I was wondering how far behind my teammates I was. I actually figured that Sb and Kelsey were way ahead because of their vault scores. I had the joy of getting to be the last competitor in the gym. And for some reason, I was really nervous. My routine was interesting... My dance wasn't great, I was stumbling around. My tumbling passes felt weird. On my second pass, my front handspring, front layout, front pike, I forgot which foot to start with, so I picked one and somehow did a fricking sweet pass. When I landed, I planted my feet into the ground and didn't budge. My legs felt like jello going into my last pass. And I have no idea how I made the back full without tripping going into it! 8.8.

I was ecstatic with the day but I still actually figured I was in third place. I didn't care though. I was just thrilled to have competed with such vigor and joy in my last home meet! And as nervous as I had been going in, was as joyous and relieved as I was going out.

We received our awards and then Norm was suddenly on the microphone making a speech. Something about a special announcement. And suddenly he was telling me to go to the awards stand and telling the crowd that this was my final home meet. My head was reeling. I vaguely knew what was going on but I couldn't believe it. It was 8 years ago when I watched my idol, Jenny Ehlers, getting the same speech and standing on the podium to recieve flowers as a senior in highschool. 8 years later, I couldn't believe I was living this moment, only I had already graduated and experienced a similar feeling at a gym, far from home. I stood there, grinning stupidly. And then Coach Rachel brought up a mini-plaque to me
and hugged me as she gave it to me.
Thinking about it makes tears come to my eyes, but during that moment I was too surprised to cry. As I stepped from the podium, there were suddenly girls surrounding me. Little Katia, a talented level 6, came to me first and flung her arms around me, asking me why I was leaving. I tried to explain but too many other teammates were wrapping arms around me.
I felt a sort of feeling I had never imagined. There was such a powerful force of energy coming from all of the girls around me, a love I had never experienced. It was a precious moment to say the least.

And as I stood there with my awards, medals and ribbons alike, I thought back to the day I wore my first gold medal around my neck. Back then, standing at the top of the podium meant I got to be the best and that I had won a materialistic award. Today, it meant that I have spent the last 9 years working through sweat, blood and tears to hold a dinky circle of metal. Today reminded me why I do gymnastics. It's not for the chance to be number one, it's not to see what level you can get to or how many skills one can attain. Gymnastics is about learning to love, to respect each other, to see silver linings in the dark, dreary days of training. It's a sport where obstacles make you stronger and falling down means getting back up. Gymnastics teaches so much and it has helped me grow wise in my short life span of 19 years.

I couldn't be where I am today without my team family; my teammates, my coaches, my parents, team parents and friends. I could not be here without all the people who supported and believed in me, but likewise, I would not be here if it weren't for the closed-minded people who tried to pull me down, to make me give up and stop trying. I have to thank them all. But honestly, I have to thank my team for making my last year, the best one!

It seems I've come a full circle... A circle with no beginning and no end.