I didn’t do as well as I wanted at my competition this weekend in Blenheim. But I am now more determined to do even better at my final competition in 5 weeks!
The hardest thing I have learned, as a parent, is to watch your kid do anything competitively. You know the amount of sweat, effort and pain has gone into months of training 3 days a week in four-hour sessions. All of that hard work essentially comes into about fifteen minutes of performance in front of a crowd and, more importantly a panel of judges looking for any fault that takes away from a perfect 10. My heart rate during these competitions shows the level of nerves I have for our little girl as does the sweat and uneasy sleep I have the night before. And every single competition, I am blown away to the point of holding back tears, no matter how she scores, just watching her in her element, and on stage showing off just har far she’s come and what talent she has grown in this wonderfully stressful sport to watch.
Going into this competition, Emelia’s only goal was to do better in each event from a score standpoint. She wasn’t focused on medals, just bettering her performances. We were proud of her focus given that the flight she was in had 11 girls which was biggest field she had ever competed in. Given the terrible snowy conditions we drove down to the last competition in, cutting very close to end of the check-in window, we decided this time with the 7:30am check-in, we weren’t taking a single chance of weather running havoc and booked a motel in Blenheim just 4 minutes from the competition location. Emelia would already have enough things to stress over the day of the competition, we didn’t want a very early wake up and driving conditions to be added to all that.
Her first event was the floor which is usually very consistent and the least of her worries. She didn’t do her best performance ever, but her 8.950 was a score better than her last competition so we were off to a good start. Next up vault—her easiest and most consistent event. She finished first overall last competition so she had some lofty goals to beat. We had seen a few of the scores already and it was evident the judges were marking very tightly with low 8’s. On Emelia’s first run she managed to balk, going into what looked like the vault for Level 6 that they’ve started to work on. Thankfully they get two runs, and on her second run she was able to put down a very good vault aside from the step-out on her landing. She ended with a 8.600 which had in her first up until the last rotation.
On Uneven Bars we were concerned as they’ve sort of become her nemesis as of late and she’s either pulled off great routines or had some challenges. Her practice run-throughs looked solid but her actual performance as far as we could see from our vantage point looked like her best. To say we were gobsmacked by a score of 7.900 was an understatement. She did all the elements, she looked clean, and we were expecting a score in the mid 8’s. I don’t know if Emelia saw her score posted or not, but something was definitely got her off her normal flow because on Beam, the one that she’s tamed and become quite solid in, she fell off the beam. And as Emelia said, on an element that she’s never had problems with: the split jump. And with that our hearts broke as we watched her try to recover and finish the routine. It was clear that coming off the beam got in her head, because even her final dismount – something that I think is the best part of her routine – was off. When the 7.575 score posted, we knew that Emelia was going to be very disappointed with herself.
And as much as Emelia was inconsolable after the competition when she started to rationalize her results and where they put her for the podium. The reality is on two events she finished 4th overall in a field of 11 and was .150 away from gold on the Vault and half a point from gold on Floor. But, in all of her sadness, when they were doing the results for Floor and she ended up on the podium (4th) next to her best friend since pretty much birth, Dhiya, the smiles on both the girls face made me so happy. For a minute she’d forgotten how upset she was and got to spend time beside her friend. And then As Emelia watched the girls on her team compete in the next fight after us, she raced down to high five them and congratulate them on their performances. We were so proud to see that in her.
We grabbed a bite to eat at Subway for lunch in Blenheim and then were on our way home. Literally five minutes on the road and Emelia was sawing logs into a deep sleep. All the nerves and emotions that go into these competitions showed in the way she was full-on snoring. She slept for a good chunk of the ride home. We decompressed for a bit—she went up to her room to be by herself for a bit. When she came back downstairs she immediately pulled out her gymnastics mats and her foam beam, and started working on things that she wanted to perfect. After she had gotten past the emotions of not doing well, she turned her focus on what she wanted to fix and what she could control. We couldn’t have been prouder of her for making this realization and not letting her results derail want she wants.
And as a parent, as I said, the most difficult thing to do is just be an observer while she’s in these competitions, but the real reason I will put myself through this stress over and over again is because how we see her grow through these moments and push herself even further every time. We couldn’t be prouder of you Emelia, especially to see how you work through these moments where the result isn’t what you want. It’s all part of the woman we’re seeing you become!
John has really summarized our weekend perfectly. What I have learned about our daughter and us as parents is that gymnastics over almost any other sport is about delayed gratification, patience, hard work, crushing disappointment and polishing yourself off and going right back at it again.
Emelia started this competition with a different focus, for two years of competing Emelia was focusing on a medal, she worked so hard, trained so hard she just wanted a medal. This competition with such a large flight of athletes in her group she moved her focus on improving her results and not worrying as much about where she placed. I know her well enough she was emotionally preparing herself to not stand on the top of the podium. I know she wanted a medal but she wanted better results.
Once she finished floor and then vault her two strongest elements normally were over and her scores were not what she hoped we knew it was going to be a real tough competition. Her vault other than a step out which would have been a deduction her the coaches said it was perfect, even stronger than last competition. But this is what happens with judged events, you don’t know what one judge will deduct for vs another one in a fast moving sport. In the end all the vault scores at the competition were very low, not a single score came over 9.0, in fact the gold medal went to someone who scores 8.75 only 0.15 higher than Emelia but Emelia got bumped to 4th.
With a day to step away from the competition, time to chat with her coach Emelia (and John and I as well) have had time to view the deductions and see where she did loose out marks. What makes us even prouder is that with big disappointment Emelia has really pushed herself to move past this disappointment, had me reach out to her coach and is making a plan to flip things for her last competition in 5 weeks. I know she will be more determined than ever! Her focus now is to make the last competition her best, really focus on what she needs to do to get her bars stronger and get the results she know she can at competition.
No matter the results yesterday we could not be more proud of you Emelia – you are stronger than almost any other person I know, you have had to overcome some huge challenges than most, you have had to work hard to get everything you have ever achieved. Never give up this fire in your belly little girl, it will take you far in life. We love you more than we could ever express.