One of the best feeling gymnastics ever brought me was knowing you were proud of me. I began gymnastics knowing one thing: I loved being upside down. Nothing felt more natural than flipping through the air and defying gravity. Nothing felt greater than landing a new skill and seeing your reaction. Your approval was everything to me. It made me great. It made me strong. You never quit on me, and for that reason, I never quit on myself.
You were there for me, practice after practice, competition after competition. You were also there, making sure I never cheated on my sets, ensuring I was becoming a better gymnast and an even greater person.
I always knew who you were. You were the head coach, the one to impress, the queen in my eyes. I remember one day, in particular, an in-house gymnastics meet hosted by our very own club. You weren't my coach yet, I knew you didn't even know who I was. But I remember seeing you coach the older girls, the ones I looked up to. It was from that day on I made it my mission to be noticed by you, so that one day, I too could be one of the older girls who every young gymnast aspired to be.
As a gymnast, I was good. Looking back, I don't remember how I did all that. I must have had a good teacher or something. You taught me passion and hard work, the importance of integrity and the value of teamwork. Most of all, you taught me resilience.
In gymnastics, you never know what's coming. One day you can be training for your first Level 10 meet and the next, you could be in a wheelchair, which more or less happened to me. What I'm trying to get at here is that injuries are inevitable.
But you never left my side. You were there on the floor for me the minute you saw me go down. You were there for me, comforting me when the doctor told me I would need surgery if I ever wanted to do gymnastics again. You were there for me that entire competition season when I was on the sidelines, knowing how badly I wanted to be out there competing myself. You took me to every competition I would be missing, showing me the importance of being there for my team all while ensuring I was never forgotten. You were there for me when I made my comeback to the sport and you were there for me when I told you I was quitting gymnastics for good.
Years later, I don't focus on the pain the sport brought me. I don't focus on the fact that I spent nearly five hours after school Monday-Friday at practices. I don't focus on the gold medals or even all the hard work I put in. When I think of gymnastics, I think of all the lessons I learned, from the sport and from my coach. I am who I am because of it.
As an adult now, I will continue to make you proud. I may be too old for the monkey bars, but I will continue to work hard in whatever I do, just like you always taught me.