So the past couple of days have been a little hectic.
I'm sure those of you who are following the team have heard about Brandon's ankle injury. I happened on Monday night and it was one of those freak things that you could never predict. He wasn't doing anything crazy, he was just completing a routine that he has done a whole whack of times since we started this preparation process (He has been doing them incredibly well, in fact). He had a mat in for safety. His coach was standing there. Everything looked good and then he just landed a little short. It happens to every gymnast at one point or another, but in this case it was a little more serious. Brandon is one tough F--ker. I have seen him in pain before many a time and he just grits through it. When he landed this time it was different. He knew it wasn't just a crunched ankle that he could walk off in 10 minutes. My heart broke for him because I know what it feels like all too well to be laying on the side of the floor feeling helpless and having a million thoughts rush through your head.
He came back to the village immediately and went to the Polyclinic for some xray and all that jazz (This place could seriously become a small town..Olympicville, Olympicmore, Olympicmere, Olympicowna, Olympicbrook- that one sounds nice) Luckily, there are no breaks, bone bruises or fractures. I am not a doctor so I won't even try to diagnose it, but I can tell you that B has been doing physio every hour possible. He has been icing, elevating, taking an anti-inflam, taping, moving, massaging, stretching...he is doing everything he can. We are even bringing food to him so that he can take advantage of every second possible to heal in time. We are a team and when one is wounded we all help in every way we can. I am sending my positive vibes to Brandon and so is everyone else.
The hardest part about this is the fact that we still have to compete on Saturday. That does not change. We don't get an injury extension...do any sports get those? I wish we did, but at 4 pm in Beijing on Saturday August 9th, the competition will begin regardless. Harsh reality, but reality.
A decision of whether he is good enough to go will be made at some point, I don't know when, but I am leaving that up to Brandon and the coaches. I know my job and it is to keep focused, be supportive and get myself prepared to compete on Saturday. 'Control what I can control' has always been a very steady motto for me.
So, moving in another direction, today was podium training. For those of you who don't know what that is, let me quickly explain.
In gymnastics you get one chance to try out the competition venue and apparatus and that is at podium training. The judges are there (in jeans and sneakers! much more relaxing for the athletes than the suits they usually dissect you in) and the media has a chance to check out who looks good and who looks not so good (I hope that I get a big check in the "looks great!" column). Each team gets about 20 minutes per event and we move in the order that we will during the actual competition (rings, vault, pbars, hbar, floor, pommel horse). We wear our competition uniforms and it is basically a dress rehearsal before the big show. If you make a mistake, no worries because you can just try again. If you don't want to do a whole routine, no problem...be lazy (except Edouard, our National coach would be kickin some major ass if we decided on podium training day that we just didn't feel like it!). It is more relaxed than the real deal, but I have always tried to make it feel 75% real. If I can lift a car above my head on competition day then on podium training day I would be able to lift up the back bumper with ease, but I would put the car down right away knowing that it will be no problem to heave it over my noggin' when it actually matters.
One thing that I don't think a lot of people realize is that this is our ONLY chance to touch the apparatus before competition day. I literally spent less than 2 minutes total on highbar today. I have worked my whole life and I get 2 measly minutes to try out the equipment that could decide my destiny...doesn't seem fair, but it's the way it is and everyone has to deal with it. Can you imagine test driving a car for 2 minutes and then paying a ridiculous amount of money -I'm talking years and years of salary, like 20 of them- to buy it outright. That would be crazy, wouldn't it. Gymnastics can be a little crazy sometimes too, but I still love it with all my heart.
Anyway, enough with the random tangents. Let's get on with podium training:
We started our day on rings. I am first up. I like this position. I get to start the party which is great because I like parties. My job is to do a clean and simple routine. I am usually embarrassed to do this event at big competitions because it is not my forte, but this time around I am cool with it. I am not great at this event and I know that, but I am pretty happy with how clean my routine is. Today was no exception. I did a great job. I held all of my strength parts and swung to handstand cleanly. The only thing that I would like improve is my dismount landing. I took a small hop. Bad boy. It's all about the sticking at the Olympics!
I had an amazing sense of calm over me today on rings. I was focused and present and I felt so comfortable and ready. I didn't feel like I was doing rings at Olympic podium training. It was just another day of training. That is a good thing. That means I am ready.
Vault went well. It's always fun at the Olympics because there is a camera that chases you down the run way. That thing is so annoying! I remember at my first Olympics in Sydney I actually stopped after a couple of steps because I didn't expect this thing to chase me down. I'm more used to it now and I try to ignore it, but regardless of how focused I am, I still know that little bastard is there.
I sometimes make the mistake of trying to stick my vault. What I have learned from experience is that when you stand at the end and think "stick stick stick" you almost always fall on your ass. It's because you try too hard to be perfect and you open up early and get a little under rotated. So, today I made that error. I thought about sticking and I landed a little short, but I didn't fall. What I need to think is "small hop forward small hop forward small hop forward". This will give me a better chance of sticking and if I don't then I will at least only take a small hop and my team won't suffer a near fall (and I won't have a heart attack when my ass almost hits the ground!).
I have been struggling with the decision of whether or not to do a second vault here. It was a hard battle back to get my Shewfelt (Yurchenko 2.5) perfected and I didn't have too much time to work on a higher start value second vault. In order to make individual finals you need to perform 2 different vaults. The plan is to nail my first one and then do a great second one, but with a little lower start value. I am not a crazy vaulter like some guys. I don't do the double flipping vaults nor will I ever attempt them. I broke my legs once and I don't need to do it again thank you. But my chances for finals are quite slim because many guys will do at least 2, 7.0 start value vaults. My starts will be 6.6 and 6.2. If I am super clean then I could sneak into finals...if someone else falls; which I honestly hope they don't because they deserve to land and not die.
My next event was highbar. This event has been so consistent for me lately. I have been hitting routines easily and today that trend continued. I caught my releases and even stuck my dismount -thought I'd show everyone that my legs are OK. In competition I really want to keep my legs together on my def because that would be the "perfect" feeling to do that at the Olympics games. It always feels great to know that you have done your absolute best out there...in fact, I think that feels better than a medal any day.
My last event today was floor. Oh floor, how I love you.
I warmed up and did my arabian double pike for the second time without a mat, Yeah me(I did my first one the other day in training...I thought it was important to have one under my belt before a lot of people would be watching)! It felt great and I just reminded myself to BEND my legs on landing! The floor is a little softer in the competition gym than it is in the training hall. It has a little bit different of a bounce (or it could have been the energy and excitement that I had in me) and it took me a couple of turns to get used to it, but now I am totally comfortable.
I went through a routine and it was clean, but I know that I will do it better on Saturday. I only did a half twist in one part where I should have done a 1.5, but that is minor in the big picture. It only lowered my start value by .1 and I covered it up well. I re-did it at the end and it was kind of a funny situation. I tried one and totally got bucked out by the floor. Then I walked back and talked to Tony for a second. I told him that I wanted to do it again, but I felt a little weird because it felt like everyone was watching me. Then I looked up and we were on the big screen. Tony laughed and said, "Well Kyle, I hate to tell ya, but everyone IS watching you. Now go and do it again and do it the way you know how to". And I did.
It felt amazing to be out there tonight. I tried to take a second to appreciate the enormity of this moment in my life. It's hard for me right now to grasp what I am accomplishing here because I feel like I am just doing my job. I am in a bubble and I don't want it to burst, but I have a feeling that when the competition is done I am going to take a look back at how far I've come, to those days when I couldn't straighten my leg and was just pushing it as far as I could and dreaming of being here, and I am going to see this experience for much more than I can right now. I am not immune to emotion, but I am very focused and I am trying to be as much in the present and the NOW as possible. When I do take a minute to reflect on the past I get shivers. I get shivers because I know exactly how hard I had to struggle to get here. I appreciate this, every ounce of it, but I don't think I am going to realize the meaning that this experience holds until I am done competing.
I have come so far and today was just one step closer. I am living the dream that I worked very hard to create. I am proud of myself. I am at the Olympics and I am not only ready to compete, but I am ready to show an amazing performance. A journalist asked me tonight about whether or not the victory is in just being here. In one way, yes it is. That is a huge victory. But I am also not the type of person to be content with being a participant. I am a competitor and I am ready to fight.
Podium training today was fun and it confirmed to me that I am almost ready for the real thing. In 3 more sleeps I definitely will be!