April 16, 2009

Behind the Gymnastics National Title: It is Written, Jai Ho

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It all started April 7 at approximately 4:30 p.m., when the gymnastics team boarded a Swarthout bus outside Teagle hall. But it was not the standard bright red Swarthout that we are used to for long road trips; this one happened to be blue with state-of-the-art flat screen TVs for our viewing pleasure. Could it be a sign? Maybe. The girls promptly named the bus “Baby Beluga” and we all boarded.
[img_assist|nid=36896|title=Walking a thin line|desc=With gymanstics competition so close, the difference between a championship and dissapointment may be a single false move.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
On every bus ride we watch movies and do homework to pass the time, and this time it was the senior class’s turn to pick movies en route to the last away meet of their college careers. The first movie selected was Slumdog Millionaire. Everyone watched in awe for about two hours, and at the end of the movie there is a Bollywood dance scene to the song “Jai Ho.” Now what do you get when there is a bus full of pent-up girls with dance music and some cheesy dance moves? You get a pretty damn good replica of the dance. For the rest of the trip, the movie and song and dance comprised about 50 percent of every conversation. After the movie, we stopped for dinner at the finest steakhouse in town: Chili’s. We had bottomless Diet Cokes paired with whatever Mexican food our hearts desired, keeping in mind that we still had to fit into our leotards the next day. After dinner we finished the drive and checked into the hotel.
We stay at the Hampton Inn when we go to New Haven, and we were returning for our third stay of the year. It’s more like our second home now: they hold breakfast out past 9 a.m. for us and they give us extra shampoo at our beck and call. With multiple people in each hotel room, we end up sharing beds and it’s always a toss-up whether you get a cuddler, kicker or snorer. I feel as though this is an added obstacle in competition because it’s a lot harder to get a good night’s sleep, there’s nothing more frightening than waking up to someone spooning you.
The next morning there was a banquet to hand out awards and recognize seniors, as well as serve a hearty meal before the day’s practice session on the actual equipment we would compete on. The speakers at the banquet were quite inspiring: We had some spunky gymnastics legends tell us some stories that were wildly entertaining and slightly off-color, just the way we like them. When the banquet ended we headed over to the practice gym to flip some tricks on the equipment. Upon arriving, we realized we forgot all our equipment on the bus, and our bus driver agreed to come all the way back, and sit through our two-hour practice. What a guy.
Our first competition was the preliminary meet to determine which teams would advance to finals. Eight teams attended and only four advanced. After a long wait while the score sheets were being printed, it was finally announced which teams had made finals. The score sheet read:
1) Texas Women’s University (TWU)
2)University of Bridgeport
3-T) Cornell and William and Mary.
This was the first time there was ever a tie going into team finals. Odd? Definitely, the chance of two teams getting the exact same score is slim to none. A sign of things to come? Maybe.
As we boarded the bus for team finals the next day, we noticed that our captains had taped our favorite quotes next to our seats, which was extremely motivating. Mine was a Muhammad Ali quote, and nothing gets you pumped up like the champ himself.
Now, TWU is a powerhouse, they are an extremely talented group of gymnasts, they are consistent and have that distinctive Texas attitude which makes for extremely loud cheering and a little extra attitude on their floor routines. It seems they got a little too cocky this year because when we went out to stretch on the floor, they had all spray painted their hair gold for first place. About 75 percent of the team is blonde anyway, so it’s not like it was that noticeable.
Our beam lineup went first and did a great job, even better than the night before. It was a perfect start to a perfect night. And, during the floor warmup, which other song would come on but “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire. We went crazy. We were dancing around the floor in a fashion that rivals the moves at a teenage boy’s bar mitzvah. Our floor lineup did a great job, but we unfortunately had to count a fall, but it was still so early in the competition that our confidence was undeterred. Our vault lineup went next and had the vaulting experience of their lives; it was the most amazing set of vaults that our team has witnessed thus far.
After the meet was over for our team, all we could do was sit back and watch the other teams. We looked to TWU, who was on beam. Unfortunately for them, the girls were falling off left and right. It was a poor showing for a team that is usually a force to be reckoned with, so we knew we had a chance at winning. As we were waiting in the back gym for awards, we tallied up our team score: 191.675. A good score, but we’ve done better. However, considering a fall and our low bar scores, it was wonderful.
Still, we didn’t know where we stood against the other teams. Finally we were called to line up and march out into the stadium. We sat on the ground while fourth place was announced: TWU. Guess karma came to get them as soon as they died their hair gold.
Third place was The College of William and Mary, so at this point we are either first place or second place. They announced second place, and, after saying our score, they said “Co-National Champions.”
We were so ecstatic that we were screaming and crying. Even better, we were standing next to Bridgeport at the time we were announced so we just merged into one big group of champions, hugging everyone and sharing the moment. Then we stormed the award stand to claim our trophy. We were elated, and when it comes down to it, it must have been written.