As an ex-competitive gymnast, the Olympics are a bittersweet event for me. I absolutely love watching the stunning performances of some of my favorite female gymnasts as the team USA works to put together an incredible team. Unlike many viewers, I have an appreciation for more than the impressive tumbling passes that these girls stick on the floor.
For me, every pointed toe is a sign of precision and classical training. I see movements in each event that remind me of when I was seven years old, just beginning t train for my first competitive season. I know that despite the confidence and apparent flawlessness that these gymnasts exude, standing on a four inch beam never truly feels secure, and even during the most solid routine there is a small voice in the back of your head reminding you that still have once more tumbling pass, one more giant, one more dismount before you can truly be proud of your work.
As someone who knows what the inside of a gym looks like on a Friday night at ten o'clock, how it feels to wake up at six a.m. and drive across the state for a meet, the satisfaction of finally sticking a skill that you have been practicing for weeks and the inexplicable ability for chalk to cover every inch of your gym bag, when these Olympic hopefully perform, I see not only their highlight real, but also their behind the scenes. I understand the hours of stretching, conditioning and practicing that went not their performance. I understand the insane amount of passion, drive, dedication and love they have for their sport, because it used to be my sport to.
And while I am in no way trying to say that I come even close to these girls in the sacrifices they have made for gymnastics, or the talent that they posses, when I see them perform, I see a sliver of who I used to be in them. And while most days I do not regret quitting the sport I love because I understand that the well being of my body and my health could not have been protected if I had continued competing, when I watch the Olympic trials and see the sport I love being executed to the point of perfection, I cannot help but feel a little nostalgic for what I left behind.