Gymnast Nastia Liukin was performing her routine on the uneven bars when she was unable to grab one of the bars on one of her maneuvers and fell onto the mat below her. If she had landed on her legs, I don't think it would have looked so bad. But she fell flat on the mat, kind of like the way you would if you belly flopped into a pool.
Her head recoiled back, her body took the brunt of the fall and we could hear the collective gasp of the crowd, even through our hopelessly outdated TV speakers. Kacy and I gasped too and immediately felt so bad and devastated for her. You see, this all happened just a few weeks ago at the U.S. Olympic trials and it was clear that Nastia Liukin's dream of going to the 2012 Olympic Games were over.
What makes the story even more poignant is that in 2008 Liukin was the Olympic gold medalist in the women’s all around competition. She had the experience of standing on the top of the medal platform, listening to the “Star Spangled Banner” being played, in her honor, while an Olympic gold medal hung around her neck.
She heard the cheers and cried the tears of joy. She came home a champion and immediately became one of “America’s sweethearts.” Nastia seemed everywhere; on commercials, photo shoots, magazine ads and television interviews.
But on this night in 2012, as she lay on the mat after the fall, all of that seemed so far way as Nastia was not going to make the Olympic team. Yet she got up, put some chalk on her hands, was lifted back up to the bars and continued her routine. She finished it, stuck the landing and heard the cheers, again, of the thousands of fans in attendance.
Everyone knew she wasn't going to the Olympics, but everyone knew she was a champion. Not only because of the gold medal she won in 2008 but because she got up one more time. Even in the face of adversity she got up and finished what she had started. And that’s tough to do isn't it?
I know I have not gotten back onto the mat far too many times than I’d like to admit in my life and career. Sometimes, I never even suited up to compete; telling myself that all of the reasons why I wasn't going to get into the game were valid. And I always kicked myself for the times I walked away.
I applaud Nastia for the fact that she was an Olympic gold medalist. But I think the bigger testament to her character is that she got back up after she fell and she pressed on towards the prize.
Now it’s your turn! Did you have a moment in your life when you “fell off the mat” and had to choose between pressing on or giving up?
Please comment below!