Natalia’s first gymnastic competition was on Saturday. She competed last year as a Level 7 USA Gymnast and this year is now an Advanced Prep Optional ( it’s a level for girls who don’t quite have all the skills for Level 8 or those who for whatever reason just aren’t ready to compete the next compulsory level quite yet. )
We could not have been more pleased with her performance! Gymnastics is such a fascinating sport to me. These girls train so intensely. I can’t wait for competition season so that I can be surprised by all of the new tricks that Natalia and her teammates have mastered during the off season. This year was no exception. Natalia has added a layout full twist to her floor routine. Floor is my favorite thing to watch the girls compete and I honestly think it’s the thing that our gym tends to excel at the most consistently.
Yesterday was no exception. Natalia ended up doing very well for her first meet- she placed First All Around (36.00). Captured a 1st on beam (9.3) and floor (9.25), and a first on bars (8.95) and a third on vault (8.5).
There was a bit of a some excitement and a resurgence of interest in gymnastics last year following the Olympics. I could not have been happier for the girls at the gym. I feel like what these gymnasts go through is sometimes underrated and under-appreciated and surely under-valued because it is not a school sport. I get upset because I personally think that they don’t get the recognition that I feel they deserve. If people knew how much work these girls put into learning just one simple ‘trick’, maybe they’d value the sport a bit more. These girls are true athletes. Hours and hours spent in a gym to master their craft. They have to be braver and stronger and even more courageous than most other athletes. Fear is a word that they check at the door.
Competition days are difficult for me. (though surely nothing like they are for the gymnasts!) They often involve long rides in the car, sitting for hours on cold hard bleachers and then long rides home again. We never eat right. Traveling with me is like traveling with a toddler. I ‘ve got my “goody bag”- water, snacks, socks, meds, music -for distraction if the pain gets bad, pillows, blankets, gloves… If you’ve learned anything by now, you know that things like travel and long days I don’t get along real well, but the only times I have missed her meets were because of treatments. If it were up to me, I’d watch her and her team compete every weekend! I’ll just deal with a longer recovery time afterward. She won’t be competing forever and while she is , I’m going to do my darndest to make sure when she looks up, she sees her mom in the crowd.
I’m not sure why, but yesterday I really struggled to photograph this event. Out of practice maybe? You cannot use flash in a gym, the lighting is typically even worse than in a school gym. Gymnasts move fast. Very fast. This was the first meet with all new routines so I wasn’t sure how to follow them. AND to complicate the process, for every event but the beam, I was shooting through the safety bars of the balcony. I did manage to get a few decent shots of each event.
Special thanks to my two photographer friends for responding to my panicked texts about how to try to take the shots from that meet. (and understanding that sometimes my panic is born of my disease and my over active nervous system making me forget every thing I already know!) You guys are life savers to me. Truly.
Anyway, for those of you who don’t have amazingly talented people who fly through the air with the greatest of ease, allow me to share mine! The girls of FGI. It’s a pretty short season – States is March 16- and our gym only competes about 5 meets- so enjoy these girls with me. They really are something special.