How a small decision can turn your life around
Updated: Sep 26, 2020
After years of diligently attending ballet classes, I joined a rhythmic gymnastics group. As I built my skills, I was thrilled to participate in annual regional rhythmic gymnastics events. My team even performed at the National Prague Rhythmic Gymnastics Festival. I loved the sport as much as I loved challenging myself. Watching videos of top athletes, such as Alexandra Soldatova, I would dream of reaching her level one day. At the age of 13, I was eager to join ETHNIKOS, a team that required four hours of daily practice, to prepare for individual competitions using four different apparatuses: ball, ribbon, clubs and hoop.
Initially, I was told that I had come to the sport too late to reach a competitive level; the other girls had trained since childhood to get to where they were. Fortunately, I had the body and flexibility needed for rhythmic gymnastics, so I was able pursue my dream. My passion for the sport and my very hard work allowed me to catch up to others in my age group. My life then completely changed. From hanging out with my friends sometimes after school or going to the movies some Saturday nights, my entire existence revolved around two words: rhythmic gymnastics. I was elated to go to the gym every day, even if practice was stressfull and often very difficult. Dedicated to my goal, I never let myself give up. It was something I truly wanted, and I looked forward to savoring achievement. My diet became very strict; I was only allowed to eat specific foods and I was weighed before each practice session. The pressure that I put on myself often reduced me to tears. However, I recognized that it had been MY choice to commit to this goal. I knew that I would have to face all these difficulties.
Two years of diligent practicing passed. I was now 16, and performing a calisthenic exercise designed to improve the dexterity of my lower back. Seated in a full split, my legs splayed on a horizontal x-axis, I rotated my hips to and fro, grasping my toes with my fingers in alternating turns. It was a typical exercise, but on this afternoon, I felt a slight twinge in my lumbar region. The ache resembled that of tendonitis, so I wasn’t alarmed. Yet, the pain lingered, and within a week I’d had two MRIs that felt like a death sentence: I had bone edema. This chronic and permanent condition meant I would need to retire from athletics forever or else risk breaking my back and court paralysis.
The injury made me lose my reason to live. I’d structured my daily life, short-term plans, and long-term ambitions around pursuing gymnastics. Having to let go of my dreams left me with a painful heartache that endured for months. However, I didn't let it keep me down forever. I broke out of the trap that my mind was in, realizing that there were many positive different things I could do that would bring me satisfaction. Since then, I have embarked upon a new journey that is rooted in the determination, care, love and empathy that I built through rhythmic gymnastics. I now work with young girls at my gym, to figuratively pass them the baton.