My Introduction to Gymnastics
As a kid, I had a lot of exposure to the sport of gymnastics. In pre-school, there was a little gymnastics program that I participated in weekly, and I liked it a lot. But after pre-school I didn't take any other classes. My cousin and her friend were both in gymnastics by the time I was in second grade, and they liked to do tricks, and I thought it looked like fun. It was interesting to me, but not yet enough to warrant the desire to learn for myself.
But slowly, over the next year or so, I found myself intrigued by the sport. By fourth grade, with the help of the televised gymnastics events of the 1988 Summer Olympics, my interest had been piqued, and by some weird twist of fate, the chance for me to get involved with the sport appeared. I received a flyer in school about a gymnastics class offered at another nearby elementary school. I talked my dad into letting me take it. Even though the class was about as low-key as you could get, I loved it and kept taking classes, month after month. There were only tumbling mats, a low beam, a box they used as a vault (which we hardly ever used), and a trampoline. Most of our time was spent on the trampoline.
I caught on quickly in the Intermediate class, mainly because I'd already taught myself how to do handstands and cartwheels, and I was starting to teach myself front limbers and back walkover. After about four months, the instructor told me I should move up to the advanced class, which he taught at a different elementary school. For another month, I took classes there, and, though it was more challenging, the equipment wasn't too much better than before. Most of our time, again, was spent on the trampoline, and we did a little more tumbling. I learned a front handspring on the floor, but in most of the time I was taking the classes, I was too chicken to go for a back handspring on the trampoline.
In June of that year, I stopped taking classes and took swimming lessons every day for the entire summer like I had been doing for years before. (My father's first move had been to make me a swimmer, having me take swimming lessons, starting from the week school was dismissed for the summer until the week school reconvened.) Then in September, I talked to my cousin's friend and she got me information about the little gymnastics club she was taking classes at, the Kensington Youth Hut, and soon after, I started taking classes there. I kept it up for my whole fifth grade year, learning enough to move up from the Intermediate class where I started out, to the Advanced class. By the beginning of summer, I was able to do back handsprings, round-off back handsprings, and many back handspring combinations on the floor. I had improved on bars and beam as well.
I stopped gymnastics to do swimming again, and towards the end of summer, I heard that the owner of the Kensington Youth Hut (Annemarie) had bought a local gymnastics club that had gone out of business. She encouraged me to continue there, and for the next three years, I took recreational classes there. I improved a great deal, in all the events, even vault. Several times throughout those three years, I was asked if I wanted to move up to the Pre-Team class, but I was unsure and chickened out each time. In a way, I wanted to, but I was scared to leave my rec class. It was fun, and I was comfortable with the rate at which I was improving: not fast, but steady.
Early in my ninth grade year, I was still in the advanced rec class, and I heard about an exhibition team forming. It was described as: "For gymnasts who like to perform routines, but do not want the pressures of competition." I decided to take part in that, partially because one of my coaches, Pamela, was going to be teaching that class, and several of my friends were interested too. For eight months, we choreographed routines ourselves, and performed them at a few shows.
However, one day in early in February, a day I shall from then on dub as one of the most pivotal moments in my gymnastics career, I finally learned how to do a kip, a trick I had been working on for years. I was so excited about it. Strangely enough, that same day, my sister and one of my friends, Catherine, made the trick, too. Something must have been in the air ... or perhaps we were all getting strong enough at the same time.
Within a month or so, a couple other classmates made the trick too, and it became the highlight of each day to see who could make their kips. Then, Pamela, told us that due to our recent improvements, there was a small, but significant chance that we could get on the competitive team. It was an intriguing prospect, one I had dismissed years before, but slowly, the idea started to grow on me. Pamela talked to the team coach, Bindy, and asked what would it take for us to get on team. Bindy said we'd have to work harder, get stronger, work on some of the other required tricks, and it might even help to learn the Level 5 floor, beam, and bar routines. And that we did.
But we were forewarned that the odds were against us. We were relatively old for wanting to join the team. At that point, I was approaching fifteen years old, whereas the kids moving up from Pre-Team were an average of 9 or 10 years old. And even though my age bothered me a little, I didn't want that to get in my way.
One day in early June, Bindy agreed to let us work out with the Pre-Team class, which she and Annika, the other team coach, taught, so they could "evaluate" us. And when that day came, I wished I'd been more prepared to expect what was coming.
I don't think I had ever worked so hard before in my life. I was almost sick while we were tumbling. We were used to getting longer rests in between tumbling passes, but in Pre-Team, they had us doing our next pass in a matter of seconds -- not enough time for me to catch my breath. But things began to look a little better when we got to beam. Annika worked with us there, and I was so nervous that my ankles were shaking. But I was able to do what she asked of us. I'd already had handstands and cartwheels from years ago, so it was just a matter of doing them when it counted. Then, we moved on to bars. I did my kips just fine, and much to my surprise, I also made a cast-away kip that day for the first time. I didn't want to say anything, though. I thought it was best to get excited later. Then we went to vault where I did okay, but for Catherine, vault was her nemesis, and she nearly gave Bindy a heart attack a couple times when she bailed over the vault.
After the workout, Bindy met with us and said that she was actually pretty impressed with how we did, and that she would tell us her decision on the following Tuesday.
When she left, though, the three of us couldn't help wondering whether Bindy was just saying she was impressed just to be nice, but Pamela admonished us for that. She said Bindy was being very sincere.
Getting through the next few days was almost unbearable. I was constantly thinking about the upcoming Tuesday, wondering if we would make the team or not. And if not, what possible reasons might be the cause.
I can still remember one dream (or perhaps, nightmare) I had during that time very vividly. In the dream, Catherine, my sister, and I were on bars. We were "trying out" again, and Bindy was there to evaluate us. It was weird, though, that my sister was in my dream. In reality, she didn't have any interest in competing. But in any case, in my dream, whether or not we would make it onto team relied solely on whether we could show Bindy a kip. I went first, but no matter how many times I tried, I just couldn't do one. I was so frustrated and angry at myself. To make matters worse, when it was my sister's turn, she made all of her kips perfectly. Immediately, Bindy announced that my sister made the team and that I didn't. In my dream, I melted into tears, but when I woke up just then, I also found that my pillow and my face were soaked with tears.
At that point, I realized just how much I really wanted to make the team. It was the only thing I wanted, and I didn't know what I was going to do if I didn't make it.
When Tuesday finally arrived, Catherine and I were a couple of nervous wrecks. (The third person who'd tried out couldn't make it to class that day.) About an hour into our workout, Bindy and Annemarie called us out of class. They weren't quite ready to meet with us though, so they had us sitting in the office, waiting. I don't know about Catherine, but I was ready to go insane! I wanted to know if was going to be a yes or no! I did not like to be kept in suspense.
Finally, Annemarie and Bindy came back in and said that she had good news and bad news, and asked which we wanted to hear first. At that point I didn't care, and let Catherine pick. She opted to hear the good news first. Annemarie drew it a little long in getting to the answer. But she said that she and Bindy had discussed it, and decided that we probably would be able to handle being on the team. Putting it into words I wanted to hear, it was a yes! Catherine and I smiled at each other, relieved.
Then Annemarie got to the bad news, which was that it was going to be expensive. And it was. The cost for competition leotards, warm-up leotards, jackets, pants, and club fees added up substantially. But at that time, I considered it to be a small worry to have to deal with. We'd gotten on the team, and nothing else really mattered! After the meeting, we returned to class, and we tried to act like nothing had happened. But our coach knew that we were vying for spots on the team and wanted to know what the outcome was. When we told her we were going to be Level 5's, she looked at us funny and said, "Aren't you supposed to be a little more happy about that?" I definitely was, and I'm sure Catherine was, too. We just didn't want to show it in front of everyone.
We didn't start working out with the team until the end of August, when the day and team camps were over. That meant, we only had a few weeks before our first meet in September. I'm sure that one of the conditions for us to be Level 5's was that we had to be good enough to begin competing right away because at our ages, time was a precious commodity. My weakness was on bars, namely the long hang pullover into the underswing and counterswing. I didn't have the strength to generate enough of a counterswing to get my feet on the low bar. In my first meet at Head Over Heels, I made the mistake of attempting to get my feet on three times, not knowing that every extra swing I took deducted a good chunk of my score. I didn't even make it the third swing. I had to jump down and climb back onto the low bar in order to do my straddle sole circle dismount. That left me with a 5.45. Vault and floor were okay. I scored 7.85 and 7.70, respectively. I fell once on beam, for a 7.25. That totaled to a 28.25 all-around.
In the next three meets, bars got better, but I struggled a lot with staying on the beam. I wasn't handling the pressure I put on myself very well, and it manifested itself in my inability to do even the simplest things on beam. I could barely even walk on the thing. Finally, at our last meet of the season at San Mateo Gymnastics, I managed to get my routines more or less together. My entire bar routine was connected (8.30) and I only had to deal with a near-fall on my cartwheel on beam (8.50). The highlight of that meet was my floor routine, where I scored a 9.30. I scored a 33.65 all-around, my best so far.
That was good enough to qualify me for Zone Championships, along with all of the Level 5's on our team (something that hadn't happened in a long time, I believe). I was determined to do well. I still remember a troubling dream I had one night before the competition that I came up short of qualifying for State by one place. It was unsettling and I hoped I wasn't going to have to go through that.
The Zone 5 Championships were held at Diablo Gymnastics, and our team started on beam. I'm not sure how I let it happen, but I lost my balance after getting my feet on the squat-on mount, and fell off the beam. I couldn't believe it! Such a simple trick and I fell, and I know I had both of my feet on the beam, too. I managed to stick the rest of my routine, but it bothered me how unfocused I was. I got a 7.75. I was a little wobbly in my dance passes on floor and I didn't pop enough in my front handspring step-out (it was essentially a front walkover), so I only got an 8.30. I didn't quite have the right dynamics on vault and they continued to be a little on the archy side (8.25), and I hadn't yet learned how to connect my kip to go straight into the front hip circle and there were some form deductions (8.10). I had an all-around of 32.40.
I knew it wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. I was anxious to see the final rankings. Bindy and Annika told us that the top 31 in our Zone would qualify to State, and when I looked at the overall scores, I'd placed 32nd. It was just like in my dream. I couldn't believe it. It was like my dream was a premonition or something.
But then Bindy explained that I had, indeed, qualified for State. Four gymnasts who had placed above me already officially opted not to go to State, so the next four gymnasts on the rankings would get shifted up in the results. That wasn't quite the way I'd hoped to make it to State. I hadn't really earned the right to go, but I was going, nonetheless.
It was kind of an exciting feeling, to know I was getting ready for a state competition, but a part of me was certain that, somehow, something would come up that would disqualify me or change the Zone results yet again so that I would no longer be going. Of course, nothing of the sort happened. Two of my teammates, Kimiye and Jessica, had also qualified for State, and for the next three weeks, the three of us focused on nothing but our routines.
Finally, December 3rd crept up on me. It was a rainy day throughout northern California, but my entire family, including my grandmother, piled into our van to make the hour-long drive to Sacramento to come watch me compete. My session, the 13-and-up group, wasn't until the afternoon, but Bindy, Annika, and a couple of our teammates were already there because Kimiye was competing that morning. She did exceptionally well and placed an impressive second place all-around.
I was a nervous wreck. One of the downfalls to qualifying for State so "early" in my competitive career was that I hadn't yet had enough experience to know how to handle my nerves. My adrenaline was pumping, making me shaky and erratic. I had no idea what to expect and that uncertainty was unsettling. Part of the problem was that we were competing Capital Cup format, so that we warmed up on one event and competed on it right away. It was a very foreign feeling.
But the adrenaline seemed to help me on vault. Bindy and Annika said that they'd never seen me do my handsprings with that much power, and my first vault in competition was pretty good. I tried too hard on my second vault and couldn't get the rotation to land on my feet. I fell to my butt, but it didn't really matter. My first vault was the one that was going to count, and it got me an 8.25. Bars was next. I was still struggling with the counterswing, especially so in the couple weeks following Zone. It didn't come together for me in competition, and I had to take an extra swing to get my feet on (and just barely). I got an 8.05. Then it was beam. I was really anxious by then, and I tried to focus by doing routine after routine on the lines on the floor. But it didn't really help. As soon as I mounted the beam, I was shaking so much that even doing the little curtsy was a fight to not wobble or fall. My English handstand was downright sloppy, but I managed to stay on. I fell on the cartwheel, and a few seconds later, I fell on the scale. How could I have fallen on the scale??? That was just frustrating. The judges gave me a 6.55. Floor was last, though I went first in my squad. I tried to envision the routine where I'd gotten a 9.30, and aimed to make this routine just like it. But alas, I only got a 8.30 (and watching my routine on tape, it was because I didn't get any air time in my front handspring step-out again). My all-around was 31.15.
I was disappointed. Even though I didn't see the overall results in my session, my ribbon said that I'd placed 24th and I had a feeling I'd placed last all-around. It certainly wasn't how I'd hoped it would turn out. No one should be scoring in the 6's on an event at State. I started to feel really mad at myself. I knew I had stuck routines on beam before (albeit not a whole lot, but enough) in practice and there was no reason for me to fall on the scale. And it didn't help any that my family badgered me about falling twice on beam.
The USGF (this was before it became USA Gymnastics) had a criteria of scoring at least a 31.00 to be able to move up to the next level, but Windmill had a higher standard. You had to score two 32.00's or higher to move up, and even though I'd technically done that, my performance at State indicated to my coaches that it was probably better to do the winter/spring season remaining in Level 5. I agreed. During the winter break in competition season, we worked on some new skills and making our existing ones better. I aimed to do better than I had in the fall -- and somehow, I exceeded even my own expectations.
On February 5, 1995, competition resumed, and we had a dual meet with Head Over Heels. About half the old Level 5's had moved up, and there was a new batch of Level 5's having their first meet. Maybe it was taking on a leadership role, or something to that effect, but I had the best meet of my life. We started on bars, and except for need to take a brief pause adjust my grip after my long hang pullover, my routine was continuous and had good dynamics. I got scored an 8.90. I stuck one of my vaults, getting me a 9.00. Floor went smoothly, and my beam routine was only a bit shaky but I stuck the routine. I got 9.00's on both events. That gave me a 35.90, which got me first place all-around and the only blue ribbon for all-around.
Both Bindy and Annika seemed quite shocked about my scores, and as the meet ended, they told me they wanted me to start working out with the Level 6's and 7's in a couple of weeks.
The first day of working out as a Level 6, I thought I was going to pass out. The other 6's and 7's were unusually silly and rowdy that day, and Bindy and Erin had no choice but to give everyone -- including me -- a rough set of extra conditioning. They admitted that they weren't making me do it as punishment, but rather as a jump start in getting the strength I needed for Level 6. Nonetheless, I don't think I'd ever pushed myself that hard ever, and there was a time that I thought I was either going to pass out or throw up.
There were two weeks between that first workout and the next meet, and Bindy pushed me to be ready to compete Level 6 by then. It seemed like such a harrowing task. I wasn't too worried about the floor exercise. I'd already pretty much learned the floor routine by watching the others do it (one gift I suppose I had), and I'd had my roundoff, flip-flop, back long before I even made it to Level 5. The same went for the back walkover and handstand straddle-down on beam, and the vault was the same as Level 5. The only thing was bars. We'd rarely worked on free hips in Level 5 so I had a very hard time trying to understand the mechanics of that skill. And flyaways were a problem in the beginning, too. I'd learned them several years before in my rec class, but I hadn't done them in so long, so I was afraid to do them without a spot.
But, during warm-ups on that next meet, Bindy said I could go ahead and do the flyaway by myself. She said it so nonchalantly that I almost did a double take. It was like she already knew I could do it, even though I hadn't even done them by myself in practice. I had her stand under the bar as I went, just in case, and miraculously, I did it okay! Of course, I pulled in too hard in competition and over-rotated, but at least I knew I could do it by myself.
Throughout the rest of the season, I continued to have problems on beam and bars. On beam, I could not stick a routine at all, and extremely rarely in practice. If I didn't fall on the back walkover, I fell on the handstand straddle-down. And to make things worse, I couldn't make the straddle-down in competition (except for just one time). On bars, my free-hips failed to improve. They stayed at or around horizontal, and my casts were barely any better (while the minimum requirement for both was 30 degrees above horizontal).
Then there was one meet at Vacaville where I had one of the worst experiences on bars. Not scary, but extremely frustrating. I got rips on my hands very easily. There was rarely a workout where my hands didn't rip, and it was this meet where I had two rips, and I got a third during warm-ups. I managed to tape them up enough to not hurt while on bars, and was ready for my routine in competition. The routine went fairly well. I kept it continuous, and maybe even above horizontal on the casts and free-hip. I casted out of the front hip circle and swung down for the flyaway dismount. All of a sudden, I found myself on my knees on the crash mats below. I must have slipped off at the bottom of my swing. A stupid mistake, I figured, and I saluted the judge, thinking that was the end of my routine.
But Bindy said to me that I could re-mount and try again, which was what I did. I kipped up, and tested my grip. Then I cast up, and swung down. And again, it happened. I completely lost my grip of the bar at the bottom of my swing, and fell to the mats below. Shocked, startled, and frustrated, I saluted the judges, indicating I was finished with my routine. And as I walked back to where the team was sitting, I suddenly burst into tears. It was uncontrollable, and as hard as I tried, it took a while for me to stop. Miraculously, the judges gave me a mid-6 score.
I was a little disappointed at not improving much by the end of the season, but I didn't care that much. I loved competition, and I practically lived for competition. Besides, having had this half-season already in Level 6, I already had some experience at this level, and perhaps (and inside, I really wanted to) the next fall I would have a chance to qualify for Level 6 State. I figured I had the summer to improve.
Unfortunately, I didn't. I went to the Team Camp which lasted a week in August. The first day, I was working on some back limber drills, and I felt an incredibly sharp pain in my back. It lasted for most of the week, and I had a hard time bending over. It even hurt to hang on the bars, and it was especially painful to do kips on the low bar. It was kind of embarrassing when part of our camp was going to a workout at Michael Anthony's Gymnastics in Concord. I was supposed to be Level 6, but I couldn't do any kips. One of the coaches there even asked me if I could do usually do them. Of course, I could, but it was just too painful. It didn't hurt to much to do power tumbling, so I didn't have too much trouble participating in that and on beam, but walkovers front and back hurt an awful lot too, so I had to limit myself in doing those.
Towards the end of that day, it got better for me, but much worse for my teammates. We had done super-splits before, but the coaches at Michael Anthony's made us use panel mats for both the front and back legs, and they made us hold them for much longer than we were used to. It was so bad that half of my teammates were in tears by the time they let us relax. It wasn't so bad for me, because I was pretty flexible and super-splits weren't too painful for me. But I felt so bad for my teammates, especially those whose bodies just weren't made to bend that far.
The rest of the week dragged on, and it was a little confusing trying to figure out which skills made my back hurt and which ones didn't. It didn't hurt to power tumble, but I was being careful about it, so I didn't get to tumble in the dance that we learned during the week (to Boogy Woogy Choo-choo Train).
I had my back checked out a couple weeks later, and it turned out that I had a condition known as spondylolisthesis, where one of the vertebrae in my back had slipped slightly out of alignment. I had some physical therapy for a while, and I stayed out of competition for the first half of the season. The doctors weren't even sure if it was safe for me to continue gymnastics.
During that time, I continued to workout at the gym, but there was a significant limit to what I could and couldn't do. I participated in the activities that I could safely do, but had to sit out while everyone else did things my back wouldn't allow. Most of the time, I chose a spot in the gym that wasn't being used and did some exercises to strengthen my abdominal and back muscles. I did this quite wordlessly, but sometimes I couldn't help but feel left out. I knew there wasn't much I could do about that, but it still hurt nonetheless. There were so many things that my teammates were working on that longed to do. But instead of letting that discourage me, I used it to motivate me to work harder with my physical therapy to expedite my chances of return to full gymnastics workouts sooner.
Even so, the emotional toll it took on me was enough to make just showing up to the gym a difficult task. Sometimes I felt it was pointless to go, only to workout for one-third of the time, and do conditioning for the rest of the time. For a couple months, my physical therapist hadn't said much about referring me to a specialist to know for sure whether I'd be able to continue with gymnastics or not. And during that time, it just didn't seem worth waiting for.
At the same time, my teammates were beginning the fall season of competition. I wished desperately that I could be with them, but I knew that I was far from ready for competition since I wasn't training fully. Still very strong in team sprit, I went to their first meet to watch and cheer them on. I yelled and screamed just as I did when I was still competing, but inside, I wanted to burst out crying. I loved competing so much, and here I was, sitting on the sidelines, watching. Even some of the parents of the other girls came up to me and asked if it felt strange not to be out there with them. Yes, it did ... very much so.
I continued to go watch the team compete at two or three other meets, but each time, the longing only got worse. It was no longer as much fun to go watch, knowing I used to be right alongside them, every much as involved with the thrill of the competition as anyone can be.
Eventually, this made going to workouts even harder. The team was winning trophies and nothing short of giddy about the fun they were having at meets. And as happy as I was for them, it was largely a constant reminder of the fun I was being denied. It just wasn't fair. This had been my life, and now, in the season where I had made goals for myself to go to Zone and maybe even State, a seemingly meaningless and stupid injury was keeping me from even trying.
But a part of me wasn't quite ready to give it up just yet. As difficult as it was to keep going, if the specialist's answer was a positive one, I would most likely want to stay in gymnastics. Finally in late November, an appointment was scheduled and the doctor assured me that the slippage was very minute, and that if I was careful, I could continue gymnastics! That had to be the best news I'd heard in a long time.
Later that day, I bounded into the gym for my workout and announced that I didn't have to quit. Everyone was happy for me. I don't know where I got the crazy idea from - maybe it was the culmination of all those months of longing to compete that deluded me - but I thought I would be able to pull off the monumental task of preparing for the last regular meet of the season which was to be held that weekend. I wanted so badly to have at least one chance of qualifying for Zone, but later, I realized that it would have been impossible. The months of restricted training caused me to lose a great deal of strength and many of the essential skills for Level 6. It would take much more than two workouts to get them back.
This realization, and the finality and certainty of not be able to qualify for Zone, were the last leaves of an otherwise bare and naked tree. This sent me into weeks of self-pity and depression where even the thought of competing threatened to ignite the welled-up tension inside me. I didn't go to that last meet of the season, even to watch. It just wasn't worth it. Many of my teammates, though, qualified for Zone, and a couple even made it to State. Despite how I felt about myself, I was happy for them. They certainly deserved it after the progress throughout the season. But I couldn't get myself to go watch them compete at these championships. Maybe it was selfish of me, but it hurt me so much to know that I didn't get a chance to be where they were. I didn't say a word to anyone. I didn't want anyone else's pity. It would only make things worse. I just sat at home on those weekends, moping around with my temper on an extremely short fuse.
During that time though, I still went to the gym to workout, trying to get my old skills back. This was one of the longest and steepest mountains to climb, and there were many times where I stumbled back, and almost just gave it all up. It was frustrating not to be able to do the skills that once came so relatively easy to me, and equally as nerve-wracking to have to re-learn skills I was already having trouble with. This on top of all the bitterness about not being able to compete at all that season left me with almost zero inspiration or desire to keep going.
What was the point? This injury was a less than subtle reminder that my body was certainly not as agile the rest of the girls. Continuing gymnastics would only put more part of my body in danger of injury and further agitating my back injury, which still required constant attention. Getting back into training was much more difficult than I could ever imagine. I still continued to miss workouts, sometimes going twice or even only once a week. I called in to the gym one day to tell them I wasn't coming. Annika answered the phone, and somehow, I even let it slip that I was thinking about quitting. Hot tears were already starting to stream down my face at that point. She tried to encourage me to come, explaining that it's always hard to come back after an injury, especially if it's one that took a lot of time off.
Little was resolved after that conversation. I still was battling the decision to quit or to stick with it. Aside from the occasional bits of encouragement from my coaches, and my parents' growing demands to quit altogether, I had no idea what to do, and no one else to offer any suggestions or encouragement.
My poor attendance and grouchy attitude in the gym didn't help matters any. In fact, I'm sure they were giving my coaches a large obstacle to deal with. Finally, it got to be so bad that Bindy had to explicitly spell it out for me that if I didn't start coming to practice every workout day, there was no point to being on the team. She had to pull the entire team out of our first meet because, all together, we weren't ready to compete. But after a brief chat with the rest of the team, she pulled me aside and told me that my attitude wasn't doing me or the rest of the team any good. I had to make a decision, and if I decided to stay on team, then I would have to come every single day and put 100% of my effort into it.
I could tell that she'd wished it hadn't come to that, and it hit me hard like a brick. I became even more embarrassed about how the past few months had progressed, and I decided enough was enough. I felt like everyone had given up hope on me, and I couldn't bear to even think that. Aiming to rectify the situation, I struggled to improve my attitude and my gymnastics. I felt as if I had something to prove, so I worked harder, pushing myself. I knew that I wanted to compete again, to get back the way of life I used to know and love.
But as the weeks passed, I found that the fire, which used to be alive within me whenever I thought about competition, was gone. Yes, I wanted to compete, but it wasn't the same as having the desire to compete. They were two completely different things to me. The desire -- longing, excitement -- was gone, but I figured maybe it was because I had been out of competition for so long. Maybe once I got back into competing again, that fire would return.
But I had to test that theory out. What if I was wrong? What if the past few months really had changed me, and I didn't want to compete as badly as I did before? So, I put a very important task for myself for first meet of that spring season. It was going to be my test meet. I needed to find out if the passion for competition was still alive. We had a inner-squad meet, and though little excitement was reborn from that, but to me, it didn't count. It wasn't a real meet. I had to wait until the meet with Head Over Heels to see.
It was great to be on the insider's part of the meet again. I walked into HOH's gym, knowing this was my second chance. I was as ready as I was going to be. I'd gotten all of my skills almost -- but not quite -- to my old skill level, and the meet wasn't as bad as I'd feared. My scores were close to where I left off last year. But there was something wrong, and my worst fears came true. I felt nothing for the competition. No adrenaline rush, nothing. Sure, it was fun and I was still plenty nervous when I got up on the damn beam, but that something crucial was missing.
Now what would I do? If I wasn't enjoying it as much, did that mean it was time to stop? Did that mean it was all over? I don't know how, but I eventually decided to stick with it. Though I felt as if something was missing from my gymnastics career, competition was still fun. It stood as the milestones along the way - places for me to test out my progress.
However, the entire season, I couldn't shake the problem of easily getting frustrated. I was progressing very slowly and it still felt foreign to not be doing the skills like they're supposed to look. I'd gotten used to being able to do nearly all the Level 6 skills to satisfaction, and I couldn't handle the fact that I had lost some of those skills after taking so much time off. It was like I expected myself to still have the same skill level and still be able to get the same scores, but in reality, that wasn't possible.
And it didn't exactly help that my parents were putting pressure on me to do well in school, and with the SAT's, etc. In fact, my parents had noticed my lack of improvement in gymnastics and were urging me to quit gymnastics altogether. The season had just begun, and I was just starting to get the feel of competing again. Despite the problems I was having, deep down in my heart, I still loved gymnastics. There was NO WAY I would give it up now.
But I also couldn't help seeing some things from my parents' perspective. I was, at that point, a junior in high school. My grades had started to slip, not anywhere near the point of disaster, but enough to cause a little bit of concern. I knew that good grades in my junior and senior years were important factors in getting into the college I wanted. As were the SAT's. I'd done less-than-satisfactory on the PSAT, and was concerned about not being able to pull a high enough score on the real test.
These things, my parents emphasized, day after day. A third point they brought up almost clenched my decision to quit, but at the same time, gave me a reason to stick with it. At that time, I was 16 years old. To be in Level 6, 16 is ancient. I'd only started competing the year before, and at that point, there wasn't really all that much room for advancement. The odds were against me. I was lucky to make it into Level 6 as easily as I did.
While I got along with my teammates fairly well, some very closely, I knew there was a difference in the way my coaches treated me compared to the rest of my teammates. I'm not exactly sure what it exactly was, what the reason for it was, nor was apparent enough for it to be discernible by others, but I definitely noticed it. I never said anything about it to them or to my teammates, but for a while, it only made workouts more miserable for me, and there was a point where I just refused to put any effort into practice. It only made me think about quitting more often.
And yet, my parents, increasingly day after day, reiterated the pointlessness of continuing gymnastics. "What good is it going to do you in the future?" my mother demanded. "You're not going to go to the Olympics. What's the point of doing gymnastics if it's not going to help you get into college, get a job, or support a family?" Several times she'd yelled about this at me, with so much intensity that it would often bring me to tears.
Though I rarely had the audacity to argue back, I knew there were many advantages to gymnastics. Maybe they weren't directly going to help me when I'm 30 years old, but they existed. Whenever she or my father tried to decide for me that I was going to quit gymnastics, I tried to argue back, but since I was easily intimidated, and got no further than a weak protest.
During that time, I was yo-yoing back and forth between settling on quitting and staying with it. One day I'd announce to my coaches that I would quit at the end of the month, but two days later, I'd come again and say I'd changed my mind.
But finally, my parents' incessant badgering got to me. The school year was winding down with only a couple more months to go, and I hated the fact that they were trying to decide my life for me. It wasn't right for them to tell me force me to do anything, even though they were partially right. And 'partially' is the key word. The truth was that I was old. There was no way for me to go to the Olympics. I'd acknowledged that fact when I joined the team. I only wanted to compete for the sake of having fun.
Finally, after fighting a long, drawn-out stalemate with myself, I made the decision to stick with gymnastics, partly just for the sake of defying my parents. As terrible as that sounds, I felt I had something to prove. Not just to my parents, but to my coaches. To my parents, I wanted to show them that I was enjoying gymnastics, despite its occasional tortures, and that they couldn't decide my life without my agreement. To my coaches, I wanted to prove that I didn't feel good about just giving up at the snap of a finger. Each time I told them I wanted to quit, my heart felt like it was being torn in two directions, and it brought me to tears just thinking about it.
And finally, by the end of the season, I'd gotten scores high enough to qualify me for Level 7. But even then, I wasn't sure if I'd stay through the summer and into the following season to compete in Level 7. My final Level 6 meet was more than enough to move me up to Level 7, but the decision to move me up would ultimately be the coaches'. I had doubts about whether or not they would move me up, and I set up a conditional decision. If they moved me up to Level 7, I would keep up with gymnastics. If they decided to keep me in Level 6 for another half-season, I'd quit.
But to my relief, towards the end of that summer, I was placed in the group to begin working on Level 7 skills and routines. Since the beginning of my gymnastics career, my goal was to achieve the highest level I could, and here was my chance for another step up.
I figured that I had the rest of the summer to solidify my Level 7 tricks, but just as my luck would have it, reminiscent of the previous year, a disaster struck on the very first day of the Team Camp. I'd gotten through the first half of the day just fine, and I actually was enthusiastic about what we could learn. But after lunch, my group was stationed on the trampoline and mini-tramp with Erin. Midway through the rotation, I was on the mini-tramp, preparing for a tuck-back, a trick I'd done numerous times in the past. But for some reason, my ankle turned under as I was coming back down on the mini-tramp. With all the momentum I had coming down from a handstand on the vault, the motion was quick, and I felt a pain I'd never felt before. I collapsed to the mat behind me, and my every muscle in my body tensed in response to the pain. I remember gripping my ankle tightly with my hand, and Erin shouting for Annika to come over. Nothing I could remember had hurt so badly.
I had no doubt in my mind that it was sprained. Though nothing had snapped or popped audibly, there was no way this much pain could add up to anything less. For the next two hours, I lay next to the vault mats, icing my ankle, which had begun to throb so violently, the pain was almost unbearable.
But all the while, one thought kept threatening to force its way out: how my parents were going to respond to yet another injury. Having a good idea of how much they hated my being in gymnastics still, that prospect didn't look good. And my predictions were answered by the look on my father's face when he came to pick me up.
When I'd gotten home, I was bombarded with non-stop "I-told-you-so's" and "this-wouldn't-have-happened-if-you-weren't-stupid-enough-to-still-do-gymnastics's" and "we-want-you-to-quit-now!'s" from my parents. I knew that it was going to happen. Even so, it was somehow more than I was able to handle, and the next morning, when Erin called to see if I was up to going to camp or not (since she was picking me up to go to gym), I couldn't bear it any longer and broke down into tears. I managed to say that staying home all day was the last thing I wanted to do (even though both my parents were at work -- I just didn't want to be home), so Erin suggested that I come watch the other girls work out for the morning, and then she would take me home at lunchtime since she only had to work the morning.
Sitting in the gym for three hours didn't seem like it should have been a very big deal, but after an hour, time felt like it had slowed down infinitely. I thought back to the night before and the ordeal with my parents, and I felt my eyes sting with hot tears several times. I felt terrible, for several different reasons. For one, I'd practically begged my parents to let me attend camp and pay the $180 tuition, and with the severity of the sprain, the rest of the camp would be completely useless to me, and over $100 would be wasted. Secondly, I'd actually begun to be enthusiastic about gymnastics again with the prospect of competing in Level 7 the following season. This week at camp was to be the boost I needed to have a good chance at doing well in the coming season.
These realizations embedded more guilt and more frustration in me. During the course of those the three hours, just thinking about made me want to start crying all over again. It was getting unbearable to sit there and watch my teammates do things I wanted to be doing.
When noon rolled around, Erin helped me limp out of the gym and to her car. Another one of my teammates was also leaving because she'd broken her finger the day before, and couldn't do much with her hands. Erin dropped her off at her house, and then started to take me home. After a few moments of silence, she asked me about why I was so upset on the phone earlier that morning. I found myself unable to answer. I was trying to divert every ounce of energy I had to fighting back the inevitable onslaught of tears. I was afraid that as soon as I opened my mouth, I'd lose control.
Instead of taking me home, Erin took me to her house for a while to help me figure out what I should do about wanting, or not wanting, to quit gymnastics. She noticed that 90% of my sentences began with, "But my parents ..." She finally told me to ignore what my parents wanted and to ask myself what I wanted. I think that might have been one of the first indications that my parents were truly too concerned with running my life and when I tried to disregard what they wanted for me, I had very few opinions of my own. Deep down, putting aside all the reasons for quitting that related to my parents, I wanted to continue. I loved gymnastics too much to give it up, despite how miserable I had been. I managed to decide to continue with it, and attended the rest of camp, trying to make the most out of the $180 my parents had spent on me.
My ankle took a long time to heal, and often became a handicap during practice. It was especially bad when we worked on round-off flip-flop layouts. If I landed too short on the layout, it brought teeth-gritting pain to my ankle again, and I believe this was probably why it took so long to heal. I never gave it a chance to return to 100% before working on it again.
Towards the end of August or the beginning of September, the coaches announced that there would be a surprise for us that would be announced in the near future. When that time rolled around, we got some very exciting news. Every three years or so, the Level 6's and 7's took a team trip to someplace. That time was coming around again, and they were planning to have the trip the following summer. We began to have meetings every month or so to plan things out, and the first meeting was to decide where we wanted to go. The coaches gave us two options: Disneyland or Washington (state). Before they let us vote, they wanted us to understand what we would do on both. Disneyland was straightforward, so the description of that trip was fairly brief. But the trip to Washington warranted details.
Erin's father and step-mother owned a house up in Washington, near Spokane. It was on a large lake where we could go swimming, boating, water skiing, and water tubing. The house itself had been added to over the years, and was now a very large house, more than enough to accommodate those of us who were going. In addition, we would workout at the gym Erin used to go to, go over to Idaho where they also owned a house at the bottom of a ski mountain, go to an amusement park, and maybe a little bit of shopping.
Then, time came to vote. Being the Disney fanatic that I was (and at the time I was just starting out with my Star Trek fanaticism), I voted for Disneyland, but the vote was overwhelmingly favoring the trip to Washington. I was a little disappointed at first, but it turned out to be okay since I would already be going at least twice that summer because of graduation. So, Washington was fine with me.
Right then, the coaches also told us that we would only go if we could raise the estimated $2000 it would cost for all of us, and if we worked hard this next season. I had no problem with that. My ankle was slowly, but surely, getting better, and I was looking forward to competing in Level 7.
Unfortunately, before I got the chance to take part in our first Level 7 meet, my grandfather died. It was a difficult time for my family, and there was a lot Chinese rituals involved for the next several weeks. I had little choice but to withdraw from the first and third meet of that season, leaving me only one fall meet in Level 7. When spring came around, I only competed in three out of four or five meets because I kept coming down with illnesses that prevented me from working out as much as I needed.
The first two meets weren't bad, considering they were my first two meets in Level 7, but I still was in the state of mind of expecting to get 8.00's on my routines -- and being easily frustrated by low scores. Instead, I got mostly 7's, and scores on beam itself never got any higher than a 6.00.
Ironically, at the first three meets, I stuck my back handspring step-outs on the beam -- no wobbling or falling on that trick whatsoever. But in practice, flip-flops were my ultimate nemesis and phobia. There had been too many close-calls to feel comfortable with the skill, and it was the most troublesome skill to work on. Unfortunately, it was the other skills in my routine that almost literally ate my score alive. For example, I wobbled and *fell* on my hitchkick on the beam! If that's not pathetic, I don't know what is. Then, at the second and third meets, I had close encounters with the beam, both on the same trick.
At the San Francisco Challenge, after having fallen twice already, I went for my cartwheel back-tuck dismount, and just as I was about to land, I heard a gasp go up from the bleachers. Panicking, I over-rotated and fell to my butt, but didn't think anything else had gone wrong with my dismount. Then after saluting the judge, Bindy came up to me and told me that my head had been literally an inch from hitting the beam on the back.
Then at the Fairfield meet, I'd already had three falls, and I just wanted to *get off the beam.* I started to go into the cartwheel back, but I felt that my cartwheel was much too slow to be able to get enough momentum to complete the back. But my score was already low enough, and I didn't want to stop in between the series, so I just went ahead and threw for the back tuck. The next thing I knew, the back of my head thunked hard against the end of the beam, and I fell to my bottom. I sat there, stunned, for a few seconds. When I looked up, Bindy had gone pale, and the judges were clutching their hands to their chest, with their eyes open wide in shock. It didn't hurt; in fact, I barely felt anything.
But judging by people's ghost-white faces and concern if I was okay or not, it occurred to me that this certainly wasn't something I should have been taking lightly. Bindy emphasized before I even stepped off the mats that I should have been more careful in judging my own safety; I could have been knocked unconscious or seriously injured. Amazingly, the judges gave me a 6.00 (which ties a later meet for my highest beam score)! Pathetic, isn't it?
Putting my beam troubles aside, I actually had begun to improve on the other events. My vaults had begun to get a little more powerful, and I was starting to get a little more consistent on floor. But best of all, my bar routines were improving. In fact, I'd improved so much that bars became my new favorite event.
After the end of the first half of the season when we started working on individual skills again, rather than complete routines, my free-hip circles were suddenly getting better. In the beginning, I only had to focus on rotating my hands more quickly, and that got me to 60 degrees about horizontal. Inspired by that, I continued to try shooting for higher free-hips. Eventually, they were almost -- but not quite -- to handstand. I noticed in other bars tricks, like kip cast-handstands, were becoming easier, which meant I was getting stronger. Sometime later, very early in the next half of the season, I hit a free-hip handstand perfectly. Bindy was so happy, that she ran over from the unevens, but accidentally hit her head on the low bar. At that time, no one else on the team had their free-hip-handstands, which, I would think, baffled the coaches. So, finally having someone make it had to be exciting. It sure was for me.
After several weeks, my free-hips became fairly consistent. I did them well in the Spring Show, and, to my delight, in competition. At the Fairfield meet, which was my second-to-last meet ever, I surprised myself by getting an 8.80 on bars. And the funny thing was, my kip squat-on wasn't connected, so there was probably 0.3 or so deduction.
Considering the fact that I was going to be moving off to college in the fall, I knew that the last meet of that season was going to be the last meet of my career. I accepted it as the truth, but I couldn't accept that fact that after August, I wouldn't be training with my teammates anymore. (There's a big difference there.)
The last meet was held at Menlo Park, and I put a lot pressure on myself to do well. I wanted to end my competitive career on a high note. I'd been doing fairly well in practice, except for beam, of course, and I hoped to earn a score high enough to officially pass me out of Level 7.
We began on vault. I was hyped up, adrenaline rushing through my system, and exploded off the vault. Both were just as powerful, and I earned a 9.20! Trying to keep the momentum going, I tried my hardest on bars, and while I casted high and opened up my free-hip close to handstand, I didn't cast high enough going into the flyaway. But I still got a satisfactory 8.60. A pretty good score, I agree, but not as good as the meet before at Fairfield. Then we went to beam, and really tried my best to stick the routine, but I ended up falling three times again. None of the falls were disastrous, but falling off the handstand ...? That's darn close to pathetic. I only got a 6.00 (which actually was the highest I'd gotten all season). After that, we moved on to floor, and I calculated the score I'd needed to get a 31.00, which was what I believed was the USGF requirement to move up to Level 8. I needed a 7.50, and hoped that it was within my reach. I did the best routine on floor the entire season. I made my layout, actually made the tuck back at the end of the second tumbling pass (though it was very low), and I didn't have to put my hands down on the hitchkick aerial. But I only got a 7.30. Which was odd, since at Fairfield, I didn't go for the tuck back at all, and didn't make my aerial all the way around, and still got around a 7.00. In any case, I was a little disappointed I couldn't get a 31.00, but that was okay. I tried my best, and accepted it as that. It was my highest Level 7 score of the entire season. And that was the main goal I wanted to accomplish.
Afterwards, some of my teammates and I went to get ice cream to celebrate the end of my competitive career. It was bittersweet, if any word could be used to describe it. I knew I was going to miss my teammates and my coaches a lot after I quit, and also would miss the feeling of belonging to a family such as this. At the annual team party in May, my teammates surprised me by giving me a t-shirt on which they all signed their names. It was beautiful and I was touched. Funny thing was, I didn't get emotional right away. It wasn't until much later, when one of my teammates, Amy, told me about how she'd planned to arrange the t-shirt and how to get them to surprise me. It was then that I burst into tears, uncontrollable for several minutes. The emotional display was a shock even to the coaches, who at first looked very worried, but then interpreted it as tears of joy. Well ... yes and no. I was happy to have such wonderful friends, but it hurt so much that all this was going to be gone from my life within a mere few months.
About another hour later, another one of my teammates, Emily, asked why I was crying earlier, and as I tried to explain it to her, I broke into tears again. It surprised me how readily the tears came. Usually, I was good holding back my emotions, able to force myself to not cry, but this time, that control was useless. I'd kept it all in for far too long. This was months of pain and self-wallowing coming to surface.
Then, much later into the night, we were getting ready to go to sleep, and I was talking to several others of my teammates, and somehow got onto the subject of why I had been crying earlier. And again, as I tried to explain, I started crying yet again. It was starting to get downright embarrassing.
Back to the time we were performing in the Spring Shows, the coaches made an announcement that we would have to work out on the team for the entire summer in order to go on the Washington trip. Back then, I didn't know if I wanted to stay in gymnastics for that long. The trip wasn't scheduled until mid-August, and it would have to be an additional 2 1/2 months of gymnastics if I was to go. Could I do that? Could my body take that much more? My coaches and teammates knew me as most prone to injury, and that wasn't exactly a comforting thought. My plan had been to quit at the beginning of summer, so I could have time to explore some of my other interests, like drama.
So, it took me a couple of weeks to think about it, right up to the deadline Erin had set for all of us. That was the day she was going to be reserving our airplane tickets. It was a somewhat hard decision, but by the time I decided, I felt very strongly about it. I would stick with it, and I would go on the trip.
We had been doing fundraisers all year. Around Halloween, Erin and her husband (Darryl) designed and built a very elaborate haunted house around and in the backyard of their own house. The fundraising part was that the team was going to help run the haunted house, and we would invite people to go through it for a charge. They did most of the work leading up to it (building it, getting permits, making flyers, advertising), so by the time the week of Halloween rolled around, it was all ready. We ran it for two days, two days prior to Halloween, and on Halloween night. The first day was a little slow, but on Halloween night, we had a full house (if you'll pardon the expression).
I went through it myself on the first day, and was pretty frightened. First, you would go into the entrance where it was slightly lighted. It was decorated to look like a graveyard out in the middle of nowhere. Just as you're about to move through a pair of black, plastic curtains, a masked monster would leap out at you from behind and chase you through to the next section which was abandoned. Then you'd move into another section which looked pitch black and abandoned, but that was where I stood. I was in the corner at just where you'd enter, and when the curtain closed and was pitch black, I'd sneak up on you, tap you on the back and let out a blood-curdling scream, which would probably make your run into the next section. There you would see a girl sitting in an electric chair getting fried. In this next open section, it was dark except for a large strobe light over what looks like a cemetery. As you've moved half-way across that, someone in a hooded mask runs out from the back door of the house, grabs a random person, and kidnaps that person into the house, kicking and screaming. Then you'd move on, passing by old coffins where the bodies seem to come alive. As you pass by one sitting on an elevated surface, you see an old woman in a rocking chair warning you to beware. Then from underneath the porch, hands would reach out and grab at your feet. Then you move on into the last part, which seems like the exit, and you are chased out by a maniac with a chain saw.
It was lots of fun, we raised a lot of money, and we scared the daylights out of lots of people.
For the winter holidays, we spent hours and hours together and hand-made lots of crafts and holiday ornaments and such. We sold them at the local farmer's market and in front of the gym on Saturday mornings. Then at the Spring Shows, we made baked goods to sell. A few of us were invited to volunteer to perform and run a bake sale at two other gym shows, and I volunteered to oversee both. We made a couple hundred more dollars through those, and we were well on our way towards our goal. However, we were running out of ideas, and were still significantly short on funds. Finally, we were allowed to host an overnight of our own, and that raised the rest of the money we needed. I wish I could have had another season to continue, but I was going to be moving off to college in a few months, so I knew I was done with competitive gymnastics at Windmill. It was sad.
But the last three months were some of the best in my whole career. Not having the pressures of having to worry about compulsories, or having to learn the new routines that were being implemented that year, I could focus my energy on learning skills for myself.
On bars, I kept my free-hips to handstand going, and worked on trying to get cast-handstands, straddle-cuts, on giants (though fear was a huge factor in letting myself go full out on giants). On vault, we still did handsprings, and also did half-ons. On floor, I continued to keep up my tumbling and dance elements. I was also eager to try layout-halves, but I never quite got the hang of them. Beam on the other hand became an annoyance. I stopped doing flip-flops because they were just too scary to be fun. I worked on gym-acro combinations, and spent a lot of time holding side-handstands, which was something I could do very well. I was known for being able to hold them for well over 30 seconds.
I was once again having 100% fun. My moods lightened during workouts, I went to all the scheduled workouts, and I never once thought about stopping early. And we were all very excited about our trip to Washington.
Everyone thought I was going to quit before the trip, but I wanted to go to the end of the month, opting to skip the Team Camp. After all, who knew what I would do to my body if I did go? But, I didn't have to go to Camp to get injured. The last workout before the trip, I was on the beam, working on handstand pirouettes. I got the hang of quarter pirouettes (cross to side) pretty quickly, having had such an easy time with side handstands. But I was working on turning more when I suddenly lost control after almost a 3/4 turn. I came back down fast, and not knowing exactly where I was, my right foot slammed into the beam, bending back my fourth toe to an unbelievable angle. I was in immediate pain, and spent the rest of the workout icing my throbbing foot.
Erin was coaching beam that day, and joked that I shouldn't have injured myself before going on the trip. But she took a look at it, and wasn't sure if it was broken or what. But she told me it wasn't really necessary to see a doctor, even if it was broken, because there wouldn't be anything he or she could do about it. So, after what seemed to be a spontaneous session of a "trust walk" to the door, I limped home, knowing very well that I would be getting hell from my parents. I was definitely right about that. They wasted no time in yelling at me for getting injured yet again, but I managed to not be bothered by it, and a few days later, we left for Washington.
We had so much fun in Washington. The six days flew too fast. We left on Monday afternoon, and arrived back home on Saturday night. The flight back, or the attempt to fly back, I should say, was an adventure in itself. I'd only been on an airplane on two previous occasions, and both had gone smoothly. This was my first encounter with travel problems. Our flight out of Spokane was canceled, so it was a mad rush to transfer to another flight to Seattle, and then we would have to wait for a flight to take us home.
After the trip, I worked out for one more week. I knew it was winding down, and it depressed me somewhat. But I tried my best to keep an upbeat deposition. Even so, it didn't quite hit me, even on the last day. I half-expected myself to be in tears, but I wasn't. Everyone who was there that day threw me a going-away ice-cream party. A couple of my sillier teammates stood up and improvised speeches which were pretty amusing. I hung around after the party to say good-bye to the coaches and give them a card thanking them for everything in the past three years. And then, I walked out the door, ending my career as a USGF JO gymnast.
I want to take this moment to say that despite all the negative experiences I went through during the course of my gymnastics career, and though I regret a lot of the things I did, and regret not doing things I could have done to make things better (I know that was a confusing clause, but it makes sense to me!), it certainly has been a learning experience. And taking it at a net value, it came out to be a positive one. I'd gotten to be pretty good friends with my teammates and my coaches, Bindy, Annika, and Erin. It gave me something I probably would never know otherwise: the feeling of belonging to a team. And to me, it was so much more than just a team. They were my second family. People with whom I developed a level of trust that was unmatched with even my closest friends or with my own family.
I really wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn't gotten on the team ... ?
San Diego Masters Meet 2000 - Here's an account of how I did in my second master's meet that took place in San Diego, CA on August 20, 2000.
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