It’s the summer of 1996.
My priorities include: buying candy cigarettes from the gas station, waiting for the Swans man to deliver more drumsticks to my house, and practicing my routine on the trampoline.
Not just any routine. It was going to be my routine for the 2004 Olympics. I was realistic enough to admit to myself I wouldn’t make it in time for the 2000 Olympics, that meant I had less than four years to train. Even an athlete like my nine year old self couldn’t pull off such a feat.
So I settled for 2004. The only downfall was that I would be 17 and not 14 like my idol Dominique Moceanu. I read somewhere that she was only 14 when she competed in ’96 and I became obsessed. She was the teeny little gymnast with the Minnie Mouse voice that everyone loved. Beyond just practicing my back hand springs on the trampoline, I also worked on raising my husky man voice in attempt to sound more like Moceanu.
I was glued to our fat TV that summer watching the Dream Team compete. I wore my red, white, and blue 4th of July swimsuit to bed every night just in case I’d get the call. The call to fill in for someone and compete. At which point I’d fly to Atlanta (in my swimsuit) and do what needed to be done for America. I knew it was a long shot, but crazier things had happened, right?
The girls were everything to me. Their floor routines where they’d sassily pull out their scrunchies mid performance and the entire audience would literally gasp at their boldness. It was so risque.
And who could forget the vault. The vault. I get teary thinking about it. Watch this and try not to get chills. When she falls to the ground and the announcers yell “she’s hurt! Kerri’s hurt!” I crumbled. All of America did.
Out of shear respect for Kerri I refused to land a kart wheel on anything but one foot for the entire summer. If she could land her vault one footed, well the least I could do was land my kart wheel like that.
It became clear the summer of ’96 that it was my destiny to be an Olympic athlete. Not just for me. For my country.
And so I practiced. From 9 a.m.- 9 p.m. every day. *I mean from 4 p.m.-5p.m because that’s when I got home from the pool.
I could do every trick imaginable on the trampoline. It’s in my blood. I’m sure you already know this, but my mom is actually in the 1975 World Record Book for jumping on a trampoline the longest. See below.
Back flips, front flips, round offs, ariels, back hands springs, slap daddys, twirly bobs, kanoodle dos, tag alongs, do-si-dos, thin mints, I could do it all.
Sadly the one thing I couldn’t do was make “the team” at the YMCA gymnastics audition the following fall.
So I practiced even harder the next summer. *I mean I got pissed off the at the YMCA and said forget that shit and quit gymnastics on the spot and moved on to another sport. Swimming.
Do I ever regret quitting? Sometimes. But then sometimes I have to think that maybe it’s okay I left my glory days in the summer of ’96. I’m not sure I would have liked competing without my girls. It just wouldn’t have been the same. We gave it our all that summer and that’s nothing to hang our head about.
Olympics come and go, but heroes live forever.
Me and Kerri, we are heroes. She for her vault landing and me for always winning “crack the egg” on the trampoline.
So to the 1996 Dream Team, I say thank you. Thank you for giving me something to dream about.
And ultimately fail at. JK, love you all!
*My mom is not in the world record book, by the time they printed a new edition (printing took a while in the late 70s) the record had been broken. Never the less, her legacy lives on.
For all of the other dreamers out there, this shirt can be found here.