And somewhere Shawn Johnson must have said, “That’s why I retired.”
Or not. As someone who was there, seeing Nastia finish what she started (speaking both generally of her comeback and specifically of that routine) was the most electrifying, emotional, goosebump-creating moment I have ever experienced in sports. And it probably ranks in the top 15 in general for my adult life.
I’ve followed Nastia since 2002. I picked her out of the crowd at 2003 Worlds and ran over to her to get her autograph before anyone even knew who she was. I actually wasn’t a fan of hers until she was robbed of the World AA gold in 2005 due to mathematical rounding. After that point, she was my favorite athlete and watching her win in 2008 after her horrible ankle injury in 2006 was so rewarding as a fan.
It’s been heartbreaking to watch her come up short of making the team after not getting back to the gym in time. And heartbreaking to watch Papa Liukin want so much more for her second attempt. Give them just a few more months and a healthier shoulder and she’d have that routine together. It’s amazing what she was able to put together given the circumstances.
We all figured she’d withdraw after Nationals but she surprised us all by trying her best, improving in the interim three weeks and showing up at Trials ready to fight. Things didn’t turn out as planned, but fight she did. As we saw her mouth “Help me up. Help me up” with tears in her eyes, nobody in my row could hold back our own tears. Her love and respect for this sport clearly shine through and I’m so honored to have been there to witness her final 4 routines.
Thank you, Nastia. For 10 great years as a fan, for an unbelievable night and for constantly inspiring me to jump back up there and finish what I started.
Don’t even get me started on Shawn Johnson. It was an unspoken fact that she was out of the gym for months before she announced her retirement. Her run last year was amazing and I give her immense credit for that; however, from the day after 2011 PanAms when she realized she wouldn’t be a contender, this comeback was about one thing and one thing only. Money. Maybe Shawn avoided having a blowout fall on the big stage, but it’s her own loss. After the two roaring, 2-minute long, meet-halting standing ovations from a sold-out crowd, I’m positive Nastia will remember that night as one of the highlights of her career. All Shawn will remember of 2012 is spotting a spectator on a pull-up during the gymnastics equivalent of the 7th inning stretch. I know which I’d choose.
Emily, I’m addicted to this sport.
You and Brian should have driven up to San Jose! I know Brian just loves gymnastics. Haha.
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