I've been watching the US Gymnastics Olympic trials on television, and it's such an intense experience. I can't deny that I sit on the couch clapping and giving the girls words of encouragement that they cannot hear, or sucking in my breath and covering my mouth when something drastic happens. I'm absorbed in every moment; I don't think about the past or future--I'm fully present as I watch. The strength, stamina, and determination of these fierce and athletic young women is incredible and unbelievable. As I watch their triumphant smiles spread on their faces after they complete close to perfect routines and perform to the audience's delight, I am truly inspired by the way they continue despite the imperfect, and sometimes heartbreaking, moments that inevitably occur. Continuing a difficult routine when you've already identified mistakes you've made is extremely difficult--whether in gymnastics or any other aspect of life. It must take so much focus and concentration to not let those little slip-ups and the outrageous audible and visual distractions around them impair their abilities. What really made my heart stop, however, was seeing Nastia Liukin, our gold medal champion from the Beijing Olympics, fall from the uneven bars after some already rocky performances. What got my heart going again (and beating more strongly, I'm sure), is watching her handle her horrific fall. She barely seemed to hesitate as she continued her routine and proved she could keep going. She physically and mentally recovered enough to follow through with her intentions, and even though she knew the mistake was fatal to her career in the 2012 Olympics, she was able to stand and wave to the crowds having completed what she set out to do with all the integrity in the world. Seeing the tears in her eyes as she completed her last rotation (this time on the beam) and the audience giving her a standing ovation almost brought tears to my own eyes. Finally, seeing her answer hard questions from a reporter with poise and grace while I would have wanted to hole up crying if I were in her leotard was utterly remarkable. I commend her, and all of the other young women who put so much at stake and lay their hearts out in front of the entire world, for being, well, amazing.
Below: when my sisters and I weren't practicing gymnastics in classes at the local cultural arts center, we put on our own "Olympic" routines for our parents, some of which included "figure skating" on the driveway. Our incredible uniforms speak for themselves.