Friday, August 3, 2012

The Obligatory Olympics Blog

Originally published four years ago, on August 11, 2008...

I remember the moment when my Olympic dreams died.

I screamed in protest, crying as I ran out of the gym.  I had just stepped outside when my gymnastics coach appeared in the doorway, having chased me, and angrily yelled, "You step out of this gym and you're leaving gymnastics behind!  I don't think you want that!"

I was nine.  I had been doing gymnastics for only a few months.  And she was wrong.  I did want that. Seventeen years later, I have yet to regret my decision to walk out of that gym.

Despite being as inept at (and interested in) school gym activities as the next pre-pubescent female, I discovered a surprising talent for tumbling when my parents enrolled me in gymnastics in the third grade.  I did an aerial cartwheel without a spot on my second lesson.  I had mastered the round-off back-handspring by my fourth.

The owner of the gym used to give me private lessons after my regular lessons, something I went along with because it meant more tumbling; his ulterior motives soared right over my 9-year-old head. He also kept moving me into more difficult classes, and at an alarmingly fast pace.  The gym taught up to level 8 ("Elite") and I was in level 4 ("Pre-Team") within a month of starting.

But level 4 was where I got stuck.  Though I could do more handstand pirouettes than anyone on the Elite team ("Did she just do eight?!" I remember a coach screaming.  "Keep going!" he yelled.  And I did), I couldn't do the splits, or a cartwheel on anything higher than a low beam, or propel myself over a vault if my life depended on it.  My first level 4 class was four weeks after my very first lesson, and some of the girls I trained with had been doing gymnastics for years.  None of them could do aerial cartwheels...

All of them could do the splits. 

What no one told me at the time was that the owner of the gym and a couple of his coaches had talked to my parents about fast-tracking my training to get me into contention for the Olympics.  Sometimes, when I get on one of my existential kicks, I think about the multiverse theory, and wonder if there's a Becky Heineke out there who's 5'2" and has an Olympic gold tacked on her wall...

But I kind of don't think so.

Over in this 'verse, I quit before my first competition (practicing for which was the source of the tantrum that ultimately ended my gymnastics career).  I didn't want to compete.  I've never wanted to compete.  If my coach had yelled, "Fine!  We'll put you back with the level 1 people and let you do cartwheels all day!" I'd probably still be doing gymnastics.  But she didn't.  She mistakenly assumed that I had a drive for athletic competition when, in reality, all I really had was a lack of fear of falling on my head.

And so ended my bid for Olympic glory.  Which I didn't even know about at the time.  It wasn't until years later that my mom mentioned the Olympics to me...and it wasn't a dream of my own making, but the dream of the well-meaning but ultimately overly-excitable coaches at River City Gymnastics.

At regular four-year intervals, I watch the women's gymnastics team during the Summer Olympics in honor of the competition I so desperately wanted to avoid in elementary school.  And I notice how gymnasts never smile or look happy until after a routine is over.
But I must admit, the tumbling still looks fun...


  1. I strongly believe in the mulit-verse-theory ... there is hope for another me to be better and al that ;)

    and a fun read - kinda ... a bit sad too ... it really gives fuel to the "what if" question

  2. It's strange that now I have a sport that is a relatively big part of my life, but I'm so unremarkable at it that I'm actually pretty below average in terms of general ability. And yet there was something else that I used to do athletically that I was amazingly good at. I guess it goes to show that being good at one thing by no means means you'll be good at something else. :)

    I, too, like the multiverse theory, although if I think about it too much, I start seeing how many bad outcomes might be out there and it can get overwhelming! Thinking about "what ifs" does have a peaceful way, though, of making me appreciative for what I do, even if there is a Becky out there who wound up a champion, I doubt she had much fun with it, so I'm glad I get to be this Becky and not her. :) (Although being able to compete in the Olympics would be kind of beyond awesome...)

    1. first of all: where the heck is my second comment??? I told you in that one that I ordered my treadmill on thursday :)

      and now back to the reply at hand:
      I don't think there is anything in terms of sports where I ever was amazingly good at.... never made it beyond the worser average. I am only good with my head ;)

      There is a huge difference between you and me: When I think about it, I think about all the good things that happened to all the other "Me" ... and how much better their life is.

      I guess it would be awesome to compete in the olympics - but what if you fail big time? Like that russian girl ... you get to see it over and over and over again.......... NOT my cup of tea ;)

      I am happy that at most of my living (like partying...) time cell phone cams didn't exist ... not that there was anything to be too ashamed of - but still I wouldn't like the idea. if not at least because I hate it to be pictured - I do what I can to not get photographed, ever since

      Annie ..... ummm still Sasha LOL but I thought I am keeping it with Annie as that was the first name I wrote ;)

    2. You know, I kind of wondered about your comment! It cut off and you didn't sign it at the end, but for some reason it didn't occur to me that there may have been another comment that didn't get posted. Sorry about that...Blogger has a habit of doing that from time to time... :-/

      YAY for ordering the treadmill!!!! I'm so excited for you!! Can't wait to hear all about it when you get it. :D

      And I am so with you on being glad that cell phone cameras (and Facebook, etc) didn't arrive until I was (mostly) old enough not to get myself in trouble. Competing in the Olympics today is so different than it was even when we were younger, with athletes now getting so much exposure beforehand and then fading to obscurity so quickly afterward (I feel like, in earlier eras, our collective attention span was a little longer, and we didn't jump to the next thing quite so fast). So yes, there are definitely downsides...but it would be pretty awesome to be able to say that, for however brief of a time, you were good enough to be ranked as among the best in the world at something. :D

    3. not your fault, no need to be sorry ... this things just had another day of bad habits ;)

      will let you know EVERYTHING x) I am already planning the first program LOL (I can add 3 self designed running programs into it - one of the big reasons why I chose this particular one)

      def agree on the attention span ... it's like we all have a collective kind of ADD - there is just too much happening at all times, and one gets the feeling of missing out on things if you don't put yourself to the next best thing at hand.

      wouldn't that be awesome?? For anything? You could still have that for writing ... we will see in the future - I'll be cheering you on, even in obscurity xD


    4. Aw, thank you!! I'll try to do you proud. :)

      And yay for already planning your first running program! Awesome. :) I will anxiously await more details. :D

  3. Wow go you! Gym is HARD, i think i did like 2 lessons when i was a kid and sucked. Couldnt tumble and couldnt cartwheel to save my life. BUT I was a swimmer!

    1. I had forgotten that you were a swimmer! In fact, it's only when the Olympics roll around that I ever really remember how big swimming is in Australia...

      Who knows, Sam? Maybe in an alternate universe, you and I were too busy training to get into Jake Gyllenhaal, and yet we met anyway at the Olympics when we showed up for two different events. :D

  4. Oh yeh us Aussies and our swimming. It was like the worst thing that has happened in our country for like 20 years that we ONLY won 1 gold medal and like 4 or 5 silvers and bronze.

  5. We had athletes crying into cameras because they won silver and not gold and let their country down it was ridiculous!!! And yeh I like the idea of meeting Jake- what were we thinking giving up!! Ha

    1. Hey, it could still happen! ;D (Well, probably not.) But on the swimming front, crying over silvers?! Ack! Well, I think Australia did well in swimming regardless. America had its moments, but we had our fair share of misses, too. The Olympics are emotional enough to watch on television; I can't even imagine the turmoil that the athletes must go through!