Kerri Strug's 1996 Olympic second vault. Probably the most badass vault in Olympic history (the only other one that comes close is Mikayla Maroney's in the 2012 Olympic trials). I get so excited talking about this vault because every time I watch it I feel like I was actually there, even though I certainly wasn't. I was about 6 years old at the point, and my favorite book was Teddy Slater's Junior Gymnasts: Katie's Big Move, and I knew virtually nothing about the Olympics except that I liked to watch the gymnastics and ice skating.
This was probably around the same time that I had this dream that still sticks with me today: I call it "The Last Pancake and the Icy Floor" (yes, I titled my dream--partially because I tried to turn it into a play and put it on with my friends at school and church, most of whom were reluctantly recruited by overexcited six-year-old aspiring-playwright me--but also because this is me and I title my dreams, apparently). I start off on a raised platform at the top of a dark warehouse-like room with animatronic porcelain clowns everywhere and nowhere to go but down. Somehow, I swung across and managed to get to the open door across the room, finally dropping to the ground in relief, shutting the door and the clowns behind me.
But then there was a new challenge, possibly even more significant than the last: a single pancake on a plate.
Yes, folks. A pancake.
Six-year-old me decided that this was a sign from the universe. I could eat the pancake, and join that part of the world (to this day I'm not sure what it meant, although I've tried to assign all sorts of meanings to it--was the pancake there because all of my friends were second-grade dating [which was untrue] and I wasn't? Or was it that if I ate the pancake, I was a sinner and if I didn't, I could have Jesus?). Or I could choose to leave the pancake and head into an adjacent room--which I did. And when I opened the door, I was standing on an ice-covered floor, and soon I was kneeling, sliding across it, and it was cool but not too cold and wet and seeping into my knees, and I was so exhilarated. I was light, and free, and soaring across this floor, and there was no one there to hold me back, or weigh me down, and I was sweeping myself into the future, this room that had seemed small but now as I was gliding through it, it wasn't ending, and I kept going, and going--
It almost goes without saying that the play never made it past the "Dear Parents" permission-slip letter I precociously wrote to give to my friends' parents.
What I remember most was that sense of sweet freedom. The gliding was important, too--have you ever been on that California Adventure ride, "Soarin' Over California"? It's that sense of constant movement, of suspension, of flight.
I've tried to re-create that feeling over and over through various mediums over the years. There was that play (which I later tried to turn into a short story, and then tried to rewrite as a play, and basically nothing worked, but hey, I was under 10, what did I know?), the book I started writing in middle school, the choreography I tried to create in high school, the actual choreography I created in college. It's developed in several different ways, but ultimately I have decided that getting that feeling back is impossible.
Because Kerri Strug already took that feeling when she landed her one-footed vault.
Damn Kerri Strug. Couldn't save some for the rest of us, could you?
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