You are living my dream. I once was a gymnast of sorts, long before you were even born. Nothing compared to you. I was good enough, though, to compete in local competitions as part of a team and I loved every single minute of it. For an extremely shy and self-conscious young girl, being part of that gymnastics team made me feel like I was on top of the world. When I flipped through the air it did not matter that I was afraid to speak to almost anyone or that I wasn’t the skinniest girl around. For those few seconds, I was free. I’m sure you know the feeling.
This letter is not about me, though. It’s about my two daughters. At just three and a half, you have amazingly caught their attention this summer. Not only is your athletic ability extraordinary, you also have the ability to do something else spectacular – make them sit still for more than 5 minutes and watch you.
They are in awe of you. I sit and watch their eyes light up as you run across the floor exercise mat. And then the smile on their face as you stick that perfect landing. They breathe anxiously as you swing over the uneven bars. Your balance beam routines have them practicing their own balance on every parking block and curb they see. Thank you for teaching them that girls can do anything they set their mind to, that nothing, not even The Olympics, is out of reach for them.
My smallest, whom I always hoped would share the same love of gymnastics as I did, is the most fascinated by you. More than once she has reminded me that she wants to “flip like that someday.” She has even begun to somersault around the house – knocking over her brother and sister and landing on the dog. The first few times it was cute, the 100 times after that was pure perfection. It doesn’t matter where she is if I ask her to flip, she stops and rolls her little self over and over again. You have inspired her.
You should know that she was very sick at birth. She spent the first 108 days of her life in the NICU. It’s a miracle that she is here with us today. My heart beats with pure joy every time she flips or every time she mentions your name. Thank you. You have made this Mama’s heart swell with unending pride.
The world is calling the five of you role models for young girls everywhere. That is absolutely true. I cannot explain to you the importance of my girls having positive role models in their lives. Thank you, Gabby, Aly, Simone, Madison, and Laurie for being a positive influence on not only my daughters but to every other girl out there that feels like she will never belong or to the girl who thinks the color of her skin is holding her back. You’ve taught them that with hard work and determination their dreams can come true.
How fortunate are we to have had you strong, confident, and brave young ladies be a part of lives this week? It’s like you’ve become part of our family. My girls may not remember the summer of “The Final Five”, but I will. It was the summer I watched you win Gold and the summer my girls gained five new heroes.
P.S. I chose to share this post because Henely is finally starting gymnastics next week. She’s going to get to “flip like that.” I know she’ll love it!