The world won’t soon forget the regal beauty of Nastia Liukin and the awe-inspiring power of Shawn Johnson as they graced the gymnastic apparatus during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Neither will I.
Their faces betrayed none of the physical challenges and injuries they surely endured during years of practice and preparation. Cool and confident, they majestically glided through the competition, their routines appearing almost effortless. Twisting and turning, tumbling and flying, they seemed to defy the laws of gravity.
They stole my heart and my eyes watered along with theirs as they received their honors. Their youthful smiles and jubilation were downright contagious. For a few moments I, too, felt victorious.
The images of their performances stay with me as I walk ever so carefully through my home, staying close to the wall for support. I try to strike a simple pose in front of my full-length mirror. You know the one. Fingers pointing delicately toward the sky, back arched, head high. Hmmm... that doesn’t look quite right. I can’t help but laugh at the ludicrous image staring back at me.
I’ve never been the athletic type. I’ve never felt a rush of adrenaline at the thought of pushing my body to the very limits of endurance.
I regret that now. Perhaps it is possible that I could have developed some athletic skill, if only I’d tried. Maybe as I sit here now, sidelined by multiple sclerosis, I could reminisce about my glory days. I would close my eyes and recall my finest moments, when I was at my peak.
If I had known that MS would enter the picture in my early forties, would I have done things differently? I’ll never know, but life is too short for regrets. I can’t waste a single moment of the present wishing I could change the past. The present is all we have. That, and imagination.
I close my eyes and imagine flying through the air on the uneven bars, hair trailing behind me. I move in time with the music as I master the floor exercise. I stick the landing on my perfect vault. When I concentrate, I can visualize myself navigating the balance beam... tiptoeing, as surefooted as a cat, head held high, from one end to the other. I raise my arms in victory.
Thank you Nastia, Shawn, and all your fellow olympians, for allowing me to live vicariously through you, however briefly.
Published On: August 25, 2008