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No matter how much any coach berates her or tells her what shit she looks like, she keeps going. That bright burning light for the sport and her dreams never diminishes.
It’s the same light that still burns in me, even though I’ll never be able to accomplish what she will. It’s what has me coming back to Filipek’s every single year. Gymnastics is addicting, and even if I can’t do the drug anymore, I’m happy to sit by and watch other people get high.
Except now she’s throwing the chalk block violently back into the bucket after missing her fourth Gienger. Starting in a giant, Nat is supposed to let go of the bar as her toes rise above it. Then she does a backwards flip with a half turn in a laid-out position and re-catches the bar. Except … instead of re-catching the bar, her fingers keep grazing it and she lands on the mat below, knocking the wind out of herself.
“Try to tap your toes a little earlier. It will give you the momentum to rotate faster and your head will then be above the bar so you can catch it firmly.” I motion with my hands the movement I want her to mimic.
“Yeah, if it was so easy, why don’t you just fucking do it,” I hear Nat mumble under her breath.
“Why do I feel like you’re only cursing at a coach because it’s me?” I wink at her to try to lift her spirits, but even my flirty banter isn’t making her any happier.
I usually don’t do pouty girls or attitude, but something about Nat’s frown is making my mood sour too.
“All right, Grekov, watch and learn.”
I chalk up my hands, which are grip-less, but this isn’t a serious practice for me. I’ll throw the skill, a little rough around the edges, but maybe it will give her more confidence and bring some light back to those sea blue eyes.
I heft myself from the low bar to the high bar, and even though my body is still in tip-top shape, my movement feels awkward. I haven’t been on the bars in … well, forever.
As I soar through the air, testing out a couple of swings, I feel better than ever. I knew from the first gymnastics class my parents put me in at the age of four that this was going to be my life. Playing around on the equipment, competing, being a gymnast … this is what I live for.
My body swings parallel to the bar and I feel all of the strength and momentum of my body. This is the addiction every gymnast craves. This feeling of invincibility.
I’m just about to release the chalky bar and start my body flipping, but then it happens. That shooting agony ripping through my shoulder and down my arm, making the whole limb go rigid.
“Ah, fuck!” I bail out of the Gienger, rolling to the mat below on my back and doing a back somersault to come to a stand on my feet.
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