Impact Of Gymnastics
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Impact Of Gymnastics

Gymnastics shaped who I am today

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Impact Of Gymnastics
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In itself, gymnastics is a sport many do not care about until it rolls around every four years during the Olympic Games. When this happens, Olympic gymnasts become household names -- Shawn Johnson, Gabby Douglas, Nastia Liukin, etc. What others forget is that for every Olympian, there are hundreds of thousands of other gymnasts who did not make the cut for the 14 Team USA places (seven each for the women's and men’s teams). These gymnasts train upward of 30 hours a week in a gymnastics facilities and work towards either elite gymnastics or a college scholarships. They work on the same fundamental skills and four apparatuses as Olympians: vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise.

The gym

From outside, my gym looked pretty much like the other buildings around it. Sitting in an industrial section of a small Southern California city, the Southern California Elite Gymnastics Academy is one of the nation’s top-ranking gymnastics facilities, and also what I considered home for seven years. The 10,000 square foot facility is separated between the younger gymnasts (compulsory) and older gymnasts (optional/team/elite). Skills of all levels can be seen in the gym. I grew up primarily on the optional side. As I moved through the compulsory ranks, I would spend time watching the girls on the optional side, mesmerized by the way they moved, and the skills they were able to master. It was not very long until I was training in the area I long considered theirs. Being an optional gymnast meant I was under a constant watchful eye of coaches, college scouts, and parents of my teammates. The gym was home to countless broken bones, blood spills, tears, memories, and accomplishments.

The vault

The vault is the only time that it is OK to run 56.5 feet towards a stationary object at full-force with the goal of flipping over the other side, or ending up having 10 broken toes and two broken ribs due to slipping on the springboard and crashing, pride-first, into the vaulting horse. This was not my best event, but it was at one point; in fact, I would almost consider it my worst event after the great wrist break of 2009. I spent countless days trying to get myself back to the vaulting I had pre-injury, but the only good that did was to wear my coach out from yelling so much. It was also great for arm strength and making sure my tear-ducts were still in order, as many rotations on vault ended with tears.

I was not sorry for myself, I was not sad, I was simply frustrated. I knew I could be better than what I was putting out and that bothered me. I wanted to prove to post-injury me, that pre-injury me was still in there. Vault taught me that in order to get around the issue I am running full force into, I must choose to either run into the issue head-on or push myself over with all I have to give.

Uneven bars

Spinning around a bar at an increasing speed only to let go and essentially fly probably sounds like a great time, but it is not all it is cracked up to be. I mean, don’t get me wrong -- it has its moments of pure joy, but joy is usually replaced pretty quickly with a burning sensation from destroyed hands, which after being a gymnast for a while, resemble something out of a horror movie. Peeling an entire palm's worth of skin off my hands was a norm in gymnastics and was often accompanied by a nice slap to new skin from coaches. Now that I think about it, it’s a wonder these things still work.

The art of bars is not even an art; really, it was more about being death-defyingly brave and not caring about unattractive hands. The uneven bars at the gym were home to numerous spills and bruises, most of which included welted shins. If anything, bars’ contribution to my character probably has something to do with reading the attitude of others and learning to let go.

Learning to let go was one of my biggest fears during my early gymnastics years. Great routines did not matter if their grand finale was a bock (translation: bailing out on a skill, get it? Like the sound a chicken makes) It was only after countless spots, bocks, and punishments that I learned an incredibly important life lesson -- it is better to let go of things at the right time because the longer I hold on, the more my shins will hurt when they bounce against the bar.

Balance beam

The only time where it is acceptable to flip on a stick that is four inches wide, 16.5 feet long, and four feet off the ground, was also my favorite event. Nothing screams badass quite like doing a series of aerial skills in a row while appearing to be extremely calm. Performing on beam was one of my specialties and, surprisingly, dealing with the looming stares made me almost do better. My coaches believed in me and constantly pushed me to improve my skills and get through my fears after injuries, which were not always fun on beam.

Beam injuries ranged from concussions to beam kisses -- which come from skinning the inside of one’s thighs in the process of splitting the beam and are about as fun as they sound. Beam taught me that pressure, whether it is from a positive or negative source, can be helpful. It also taught me that even though you can be the best at something, it is still possible to fall; life is essentially a balancing act.

Floor exercise

Ah, nothing is as nice as prancing around a spring-supported floor to dainty instrumentals while completing some of the pretty extreme tumbling passes known to man. Floor was my second favorite apparatus, sometimes my most favorite depending on the beam day I was having. The floor was where I got to express myself to the highest degree without as much pressure as experienced on beam or bars. Floor was where I was able to get out my aggression with bounding tumbling passes and leaps galore. I was able to become someone else during my routine and my acrobatics sequence even left some judges teary-eyed on a few occasions, or so I heard. The combination of tumbling and extreme flexibility made me appreciate it as an art-form. It is where I was first recognized as a unique talent. I learned from floor that confidence can take you extremely far. If I believe in myself and truly give something a shot, I can make it work. Confidence is key in life, no matter what the situation is.

All-around

This is usually the point at the very end of the competition medal ceremony in which the scores from each event are totaled and the all-around winner is crowned, basically, it’s the part that really counts.

Gymnasts work to become the best they can possibly be, and sometimes it does not work out. In 2010, my love affair with gymnastics ended. The sport that had controlled my life for nearly a decade ended without much warning; however, I would not have it any other way. I ended gymnastics at my prime. Gymnastics continues to be such a huge part of my life and I will never forget anything about it. Coaches became second parents and friends turned into siblings. I guess spending more time with them than my actual family could do that to a young girl.

I will forever and always be a gymnast at heart. My coaches are still some of my most trusted confidantes, and I will always refer back to the lessons they taught me growing up. The pressures I faced as a gymnast are hard to imagine, but it has shaped who I am today and for that, I am thankful.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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