I was one of the top US gymnasts in 1992. I also knew that I was not the number one gymnast. I knew there were other girls that were better than me and I was OK with that. I was “happy just to be there”. The irony was that maybe IF I believed that I was one of the best, I could have become the best.
In 1987 I was 14 and I moved from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando to train at Browns. I had outgrown my gym and I needed to take the next step in training. Browns was the closest Olympic Training Center and they were successfully creating their own Olympian, Brandy Johnson. The first day I stepped into the gym I knew it was where I needed to be. The gym was spectacular. It was 22,000 square feet of training bliss. The gym was filled with new mats, equipment, and eager gymnasts wanting to be the next big thing.
My jaw dropped. I used to be the big thing, big fish, in my old gym. But now I was a little fish swimming among many other little fish in an enormous sea.
I fit into the Browns team just fine. I had much to learn with little time to learn it. I had talent, strength, and the desire to be number one. But I knew my place. I was not number one and I was fine with that. So even with all my talent, strength, and desire, I only trained to be second best. For example, If it takes 100% effort to be number one and 90% effort to be number two, I only put in 90% effort. Of course at the time I didn’t realize it; I worked very hard to be second best, but I never worked hard enough to be number one. I always kept my skills one step away from being the best.
In 1992 I was the big fish at Browns. But I was still a little fish on the USA National Team. Kim Zmeskal was the big fish. She was just coming off of winning 1991 World Championships. I would watch her gymnastics and stare in amazement on how easy everything looked for her. She was super human. Then there was Kerri Strug and Dominique Dawes. Another two superior gymnasts. And don’t forget Shannon Miller, that girl was a trickster and I was impressed. I had my work cut out for me. If I wanted to make the 1992 Olympic team I knew that I needed to be one of the top six gymnasts in the USA. So I set my goals to be number six.
I knew I wasn’t going to be number one, or two, or three, or four, but I thought I had a great chance to be five or six. I trained myself to be in the top six. But what if I had trained myself to be number one? What if I truly believed that if I had a chance to be number one? Could I have been? If I truly believed that I could do the skills that Kim and Shannon were doing I wonder if I would have trained my body and mind to master those skills. If I truly believed that I was good enough to be number one, I wonder if I could have been?
I did believe that I was good enough to be sixth on the team. When training was tough, I didn’t push through like a champion. I pushed through like an athlete that just wanted to be sixth. In the back of my mind I knew that I wasn’t going to be a champion, so why would I train like a champion?
I didn’t train to be super human, I trained to be just enough. I didn’t train to be a trickster, I trained to be careful and consistent. I did exactly what I needed to do to be number six. And in 1992 I was the sixth women on the team.