When I was a little over 4 years old, Mary Lou Retton won the 1984 All-Around Olympic gold medal in gymnastics. I don’t remember actually watching her win on live TV or anything, but for the next 7 years I relived her moment of glory over and over and over again. I watched our home taped VHS of that meet hundreds of times. My sister and I still repeat what the announcers were saying throughout. Two of our favorite lines, “She runs like Carl Lewis and smiles like Brooke Shields.” and “Mary Lou, how do you do?!”. We knew her routines. We knew the other competitors routines. We knew the back stories. We knew what her coach said and how he lifted her up in celebration. We were her biggest fans and probably still are.
I used to draw pictures of myself on the victory podium with my 1996 Olympic gold medal. I would draw the world and a crowd of people and write talk bubbles like “the next Mary Lou”, “world peace”, “dream” and “believe”. I wanted to inspire the world the way Mary Lou inspired me. When my gymnastics career ended, my dreams did not. My sister and I started a collection between ourselves that would one day fund our own gymnastics facility. We put a quarter a day into the jar. We talked about what we would have and what kind of coaches we would be. We saved a good amount for about two years, but eventually stopped the effort. We still watch gymnastics on TV whenever it’s aired and hope for another Mary Lou Retton, Nadia Comaneci, or Kim Zmeskal.
While this all might sound silly and childish, I believe that it’s shaped me into who I am today. I still dream big. It doesn’t matter what I’m striving for, I look beyond that and believe that more is possible if I want it. Sometimes I even feel like I’m as good as Carl Lewis and as dynamite as Mary Lou Retton. I know that passions shared are more inspiring and more fun. When I love something today, I find someone else who loves it too. I talk about it with them. Cheer about it. Follow it. I am a coach today and I fight to get the athletes good facilities and the best training possible. I’m tough and enthusiastic. I have a passion for diving even more than gymnastics (if you can imagine that) and I let it show. When I see a kid pop out of the water with their face lit up and brimming with new confidence because they just ‘got it’, I ask them how they feel. Usually they giggle and say “good”. What a thrill!
I thought I was going to be the next Mary Lou Retton but now I’m just the best me. I don’t know about you but I’m going to keep dreaming and keep believing. World peace? Sure, it will happen. J