Somehow a fear of death and serious gymnastics can co-exist.
By Hannah Salas
My legs are shaking, almost mistaken for an earthquake, as I climb onto the platform for the high bar. My hands might not even hold onto the bar while I swing because I am so nervous. I think to myself:
“Me, doing this skill by myself? What if I die? I’m gonna die.” As predicted, I forgot to shift my hands during the skill, and I fell but in the wrong direction. When in mid-fall, time is put on hold. Every thought sprints through my head. I landed on the platform and the concrete next to the pit and landed on my tailbone. I blacked out and couldn’t move. I’m dead, for sure.
Ever since the day we were born, there has always been that something, that dark horror lounging in the back of our mind. Some of those dark figures fade away and some only get bigger and stronger. Some are born with us and after that, new ones are created. Even if some had slipped away, they are never forgotten, and their presence will stay for as long as forever. There are only created and never fully destroyed.
Death is such a common fear for every person. Only when I am at the gym is when that fear of mine strongly kicks in. The contradiction between my sport and this fear amazes me every time I set foot in the building. Gymnastics flips and skills that happen in my routine can go perfectly or can take a dangerous turn. The chance of injury and even death is a factor. The fear of death has been around since I could remember but once middle school hit, this fear lurked in the back of my mind. With this fear, how could I still go to gymnastics practice knowing I could injure myself, or potentially die, when I have the fear of death? Fears and our personal life contradict themselves when one makes sense and the other has no explanation.
“Come on Hannah. Just do it. You have done it like a million times before!” I could have done a skill that I learned from five years ago and still fear it. Standing at the opposite end of the runway of the vault is still nerve-racking. Again, I think to myself:
“I mean… if I die, it’s my coach’s fault. Wait, Coach, can you still spot me?” My coach waddles his way over to the vault table knowing I will be just fine but knows I won’t go if he doesn’t stand there.
“Okay, now if I die, it’s really my coach’s fault. But, I don’t wanna die though.” I push myself to do the vault and as predicted, my coach didn’t even spot me, and I landed perfectly on the mat like I do every time.
“See, Hannah? You were just fine.” My coach shakes his head as he waddles back over to his coaching spot.
Death mocks me by doing its own vault in its dark lair, but it doesn’t land so perfectly as I did. I can see it flailing in the air when it’s supposed to be flipping and it lands on the ground, headfirst, blood everywhere, and lays motionless. It soon stands up, looks me in the eyes, and mouths, “That could be you.”
I walk back to my starting spot on the runway and look back down at the vault. I know I just did a great vault and if I do it again, it will be the exact same. This time, I know my coach won’t stand there while I go, so going by myself is the only option. I then decide to go for it. In mid-vault, I pause and forget what I’m doing. I flail in the air just as Death did. I over-rotated and landed on my neck, the rest of my body flopping on the mat. Death stands up and mouths, “So close…”
I sit up trying to make sense of what happened and see my coach running over.
“Hannah, are you good? Does anything hurt?”
“Nah, I’m fine. Let do it again.”
Weeks of practice could go by and not once did I crash during a skill. There will be a skill that you don’t even have to think about anymore and it’s all muscle memory at this point. Even with that reassurance, crashing on a skill is all more likely. There could even be a five-foot stack of squishy mats underneath and you could still land wrong or entirely miss the stack. Tomorrow I have practice and I’m going to hope I don’t crash again. Cross my fingers.
Photo: DSC_6258 by MGoBlog on Flickr