My palms are sweaty. My heart is pounding. I look around the room at the other gymnasts tumbling, flipping, flying through the air. I have one more event left at my regional gymnastics meet, the meet that determines if my dreams will come true or come crashing to a halt. The only thing between failure or success, disappointment or elation, tears of sadness or joy, is floor.
But what exactly defines this failure or this success? If I do well on this last event, I will be eligible to compete at the United States of America Gymnastics National Championship in Dallas, Texas. Only the best 300 gymnasts in the country make it to this meet. I want to be one of the best. I want to qualify to Nationals more than I have wanted almost anything in my whole life. I want to look back on my life of gymnastics and be assured that it hadn’t been for nothing. So as I stand here before the floor, the judges, my teammates, and my family, I think back to how I had gotten to this point.
I think about how I do not even remember a time I wasn’t a gymnast. Being placed in a sport at the age of three does that to a person. I think about the every day practices that lasted for four hours. I think about the late nights, the early mornings, and the lack of sleep that went with them. I think about the falls, the broken bones, the pulled muscles, the bloody hands, the cut up toes, and the always-bruised shins.
I think about the failure to reach goals. I remember the anger I would feel when I tried my hardest but it still not being enough. I think about the pressure from unreasonable coaches. I remember the perfection that was to be strived for. The taste of tears from the pain in my body and heart were fresh on my lips.
Then I remember the teammates - the sisters - who felt what I felt. I think of the times I finally did my best. I think of dismounts that were stuck and how perfect it felt not to move my feet from that spot. I picture how it felt to be in the spotlight, the audience captivated by my movements. Finally I think about the meet I am at right now and how I had done my best on all the events so far. I think about how happy that makes me.
Now the floor lies before me and I realize I am exactly where I want to be. I decide that I will be happy no matter what happens. I will give it my all and if that means not making it to Nationals, at least I will know that I gave everything I possibly could.
Adrenaline pulsing through my veins, I start my first tumbling pass. I pray to God I don’t fall flat on my face because then everything will be over before it has barely started. I flip twice through the air, and my feet meet the ground. I have never been happier to be on my feet. I am grinning ear-to-ear as I dance through my routine. My hardest pass is done, and not only done, but done well. I only have two more tumbling passes left, and I can only hope that my second one goes as well as my first. My adrenaline-filled legs carry me across the floor as I spin and twist in the air. Once again, my feet hit the ground and I cannot be more elated. My emotions transfer to my choreography and I dance like I have never danced before. My chin is up, my face is shining, my movements are sharp, and I look like I want this. I am in the spotlight only for a few moments, but people are watching me. As I get ready for my last pass, I can’t help but feel excited and anxious at the same time. I can either finish this routine on a great note, or I can be disappointed. I ignore the latter possibility, take a deep breath, and put all my remaining energy into my final tumbling pass.
My pass probably takes only 10 seconds to complete, but it feels more like 10 minutes. I anticipate the moment when my feet collide with the ground so I can finally breath. . . I’ve done it! My feet are on the ground and my body is upright. I turn around with the biggest smile on my face and complete my routine. I know I’ve done the best I could on floor and the whole meet. There is nothing else to wish for.
As I salute the judges and walk off the floor, there are so many emotions running through me. I feel ecstatic that I just did a great floor routine and ended an already phenomenal meet on such a high note. I am relieved that it is over. I am proud of myself for everything I have accomplished today and in my whole gymnastics career. I am grateful as I look up in the stands and see my family beaming back at me. It is also a very bitter-sweet moment. Regionals has been my best meet this season, but I realize it may also be my last since I do not know yet if I have qualified for Nationals. But on the whole, I know I’ve done my best, which is all I could have asked for.
Everything after that is a blur until my coach comes up to my teammates and me with the results. When she says I finished in 7th place, the last qualifying spot for Nationals, I just look at my mom and we both start crying, all the emotions of the day pouring out of us. Everything I have worked for has finally paid off. I had been good enough. I am one of the top 300 gymnasts in this country. It is an absolutely wonderful moment, and what makes it so wonderful is that this isn’t just something that has been handed to me but is something that I had wanted more than almost anything. I had worked for it. I had prayed for it. I had sweated for it. I know in my heart I deserve it; the best moment in my life. It’s my time to shine.