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Brianna Assad

When I was just a little girl, my mom recognized that I had a special talent. She would
see me flip around the house, do spins and dances to music, and she just knew I had a desire. As
time went by and I continued to do more and more around the house she decided she needed to
put me in some kind of class that I would be able to use my talent and also progress.
Not too long after, she put me in a ballet class, at the time we were living in Petal
Mississippi, so there wasn’t a lot around there in that little town. I was nine years old, my first
day of dance class. I remember wearing my little light pink ballet slippers that my mom had just
bought for me, my tights, and also my favorite pink leotard that I already had and would wear
around the house and prance in it. I had never been in a dance class before so all this was very
new to me and a little nerve wracking. When I walked into the dance studio the first day I felt a
little weird, I guess I was a little shy at the time and being a new dancer there, I just felt everyone
was looking at me. The first thing the instructor said was, “Come on girls, let’s gather around. I
want to introduce a new one we have today that’s going to try out our class.” She introduced
herself and me and then the girls all went around and said their names. After that we all got into
a circle and stretched together, and then before I knew it, it was time to do our skills.
The instructor made us line up in a corner diagonally, to do leaps across the floor, at the
time I didn’t know what a leap was, I just wasn’t familiar with the word “leap”, so I asked the
dance teacher exactly what it was and she explained it to me but as soon as the first girls went I
realized that I do those all the time at my house. I moved more towards the back and then went,
I guess the girls expected me to fall on my face or something because after I went they were all
quiet and then the dance teacher said, “Great leap, just make sure you keep your back knee

under,” and then she smiled. So I smiled, I felt more confident now and was ready for the next
thing. The dance instructor went over to the CD player and put on a song, it was my favorite
song at the time, “Every time we Touch”. I guess just being in a room full of dancers and just
the atmosphere of the dance studio made me feel the music within me. When the girls got up
and began doing the movements they had already learned some steps to the song, I noticed that
some of the girls weren’t saying counts during the dance; they were actually saying the lyrics to
the song. Every word had a different movement, or so it seemed. It was by learning the lyrics to
the song and feeling the beat to make the movements look fluent.
I did dance for about a year; I enjoyed it a lot, learning all the skills and expanding my
knowledge on the different techniques helped me improve a lot over that year. After living in
Mississippi during that year, we moved to Oklahoma because of my dad’s job. One of the girls
that I met in the neighborhood, Sarah, who later became my best friend, was very involved with
gymnastics. When we moved to Oklahoma, there wasn’t a dance studio there, so I pretty much
stopped dancing as a whole. I actually started to do some gymnastics with Sarah when we would
play together. She would go to practice and learn new skills and then show them to me and told
me what each skill was called, and I would teach myself how to do them by watching her. One
day I went up to my mom and asked if I can try a gymnastics class with Sarah, she agreed to take
me to her next practice.
Stepping into the gym was a whole lot different than the dance studio. The smell of chalk
in the air from the bars, the sound of springs boards being compacted down and then releasing as
the girls would put all their force onto them to get over the vault, I even got this feeling inside of
me when I stepped into the gym, the overall atmosphere had me either feeling nervous in my
stomach because I was scared, or because I just realized that this is where I belonged.

Everything seemed so right, watching the girls on the beam going through the movements,
imagining myself in their spot, right there, I could see it, I wanted it.
All of the sudden I heard, “DIVI, DIVI, GO GO!” yelling across the whole gym. The
man yelling looked like he could be in his mid-50’s, wearing a dark blue jump suit, which I later
realized he wore every single day, looked to be the coach. When I heard him yelling, it startled
me a little, and I couldn’t understand what he was saying, obviously he was speaking a different
language. After he stopped telling her to “DIVI”, he looked over at me. He was standing over
by the bars spotting a girl on a new skill; he hopped down and started walking towards me. He
introduced himself as, Sergei Uchancoe. He had a thick Russian accent; he later said he was
from the Ukraine’s. After he introduced himself he asked me what level I was, I didn’t know, I
had only been working on random skills by myself at home. And then he made it clearer, “what
kind of skills do you have?” I started naming off some skills and then he said, “Show me them”,
so I did. Apparently I wasn’t calling the skills by the right name because after I did them he said
the name of them. I did my backflip and he said, “good back handspring”, I did my front tuck
and he said, “very nice punch front.” Just in the matter of minutes I was already learning the
correct words of skills and language of a gymnast. After a few more skills he walked me to his
office and we sat down. He told me that he was very impressed with my skills. He said if I
would commit and be dedicated to this sport I could improve greatly. I didn’t know what my
mom as thinking at this point, but I was totally all for this new commitment. I was ready to feel
a part of a team and learn new things like teamwork and dedication and striving for a goal. I was
beyond ready at this point to be a part of a team.
From that day on my life changed drastically. I quickly progressed through the levels,
working hard from 3:15 to 8:45 every day; luckily we were off on Sundays. Through the years I

improved and learned a lot. My skill level increased and I was always working to improve and
show the coach and myself that I was driven and wanted this. I learned that when you’re highly
involved with a sport like gymnastics, there’s not a lot of fun in it. Or at least it’s not the kind of
fun most people think of. Gymnastics is a sport where your whole mindset has to be into it,
there’s not much of a break, ever. It is a year-round sport, if you’re on vacation, coach will give
you a conditioning and skills list. There were many good times, such as winning many metals
and trophies, but there were also many not so good times, like where you’re working on an event
where your to the point of crying because you’ve fell so many times or couldn’t stick the landing
so you have to do ten rounds of conditioning. It’s all a big learning experience. I learned
different skills every day. My coach would sit me down and tell me about a new skill and
explain it to me. I learned a lot from my coach and the sport.
During gymnastics, I’ve had many competitions; there was one special meet in particular
that has always stayed in the back of my mind. It was a meet that I have vivid memory of
because I had a major challenge halfway through the meet that I worked through and overcame,
and that experience has stuck with me to this day.
I arrived at the competition 30 minutes before it was time to warm-up. I was scheduled
to compete at 8:00am, so it was a very early morning. I actually loved 8:00 meets because you
were finished at 12, and all your nerves were gone and out of the way. I remember being super
nervous for this meet because not only my close family was there, but also my grandparents and
cousins were there also. They have never seen me compete in person, only on video, so I really
wanted to do good to impress them. That morning I was so nervous I couldn’t even eat
breakfast, my mom was trying to get me to at least eat some fruit, but I couldn’t.

Stepping into the gym, it felt like any other competition I have competed at. Gym mats
all over the floor, different events placed throughout the gym, and judge’s booths set up at every
event. Every time I step into a gym I’m about to compete at, I get little butterflies in my
stomach. As I walked further in, I saw my coach talking to one of the other coaches from
another gym. He motioned for me to come over there and start stretching with the other girls. I
quickly took off my warm up pants and jacket, gave my mom a kiss, and ran over to my coach. I
began to warm up and jump around to get a good feel of the floor. The floor was a royal red
color, which was a lot different from what I’m used to. As I was bouncing and warming up my
leaps, I noticed that it had really good spring to it. That can be good for my leaps and front
tumbling, but could be bad for my back tumbling where I have a lot of power and could over
rotate. I’m definitely going to have to monitor my power during my tumbling passes so I can
stick it and not take any extra steps, that’s one thing that my coach despises, when we take extra
steps out of our tumbling passes. After warm up time, we had about five minutes to look at the
event order and figure out the order of each girl competing in our rotation. I found out I was first
on our first event, vault. Vault was the one event that I didn’t particularly enjoy. Vault requires
a lot of power to run down the run way and then even more power to hit the springboard hard
enough to flip yourself over a big obstacle and then flip off of it. I try not to focus on any
negatives at meets, so I looked at the bright side of it. If I go first on vault, I get to be the first
one finished with the first event and vault will definitely warm me up for the rest of the events.
As I was warning up, I felt pretty good about competing this event soon; I did about three
of my Pike Uchanchoes, which has always been a struggle for me to land. I didn’t exactly stick
any in the warm up, but my theory was, if you have a bad warm up, it means you’re going to
compete the event well. Soon enough it was time for me to go. I walked to the end of the vault

runway and waited patiently until the judge looked at me and gave me the signal to go, which
was where he would lift an American flag up. I saw the flag began to rise and then I began
running. As I ran, everything in my peripheral vision was a blur, noises began to decrease as I
traveled further and further down the runway. Just two more steps and it was time to hurdle and
pounce on the board. One… two….Pow! I hit the board wrong and didn’t make it over the
vault, I scratched, I ran right into the vault table hitting my chest on the table with full force, all I
was thinking was, “ouch!” I couldn’t believe that this happened when I was actually getting
judged. I turning to the judges and gave them a fake smile and walked back to the beginning of
the runway. On vault, you get two chances and they judge the best out of the two, I knew I had
to stick this one, no pressure or anything. When I was walking back I didn’t even look up at my
coach, I didn’t want to see the disappointment in his eyes, so I just looked down and gathered
myself. I stood there again waiting for the judge to raise his hand, he did, and I began running.
This time running, it felt like my head was on fire, my face was straight and serious, I blocked
everything out, didn’t even pay attention to blur in my peripheral vision, it was just me and the
vault. I ran faster this time, hit the board pushed off, flipped over and BAM! “NO way”, I
thought, I stuck the landing! I turned to the judges and gave them the biggest smile and then ran
to my coach and hugged him, I felt so good. The next event we went to was floor, one of my
favorite events!
Warming up went pretty good on floor; I stuck all my passes and waited on the side of
the floor until it was my turn to compete. I had 5 girls in front of me so I put in my ear phones
and began to listen to music and escape into a different place, I like to forget that I’m actually at
a competition to calm my nerves sometimes. It was now my turn, I walked onto the floor and
gracefully went into my first pose, I waited for my music to start and then I began to dance. I

went for my first pass and landed it perfectly followed my leap series and jumps. All my passes
in the routine went very well; I was so excited to land my last pass that I’ve been working on
perfecting for a month now. After the routine I just thought of how I’m doing well so far in the
meet and just have to keep it up.
Warm-ups for beam began soon after floor; I didn’t warm up for too long, because I felt
prepared and didn’t want to ware myself out. When it was time for me to compete, I felt very
confident during my routine. I had a slight wobble on my full turn, but that was it. All I had left
was my dismount. I thought in my head, “I got this, last thing, and then I’m done!” I went for
my double back handspring towards the end of the beam and started to push off through my toes
into my back tuck for my dismount. As I jumped off I noticed I was a little crooked, I attempted
to straighten my body out but before I knew it my heel landed right on a thick metal pole that
was laying right beside the dismount mat for the beam. I immediately felt a sharp pain go
throughout my heel up to my ankle. I tried to stay standing, but the pain was just so incredible
that I fell right down on my back and started to cry a little. At the time I didn’t know landed of
anything weird, I didn’t understand why my foot was in so much pain. A few coaches came over
to me and helped me up and carried me out of the way. One of the trainers came over and
looked at my foot, he pressed on it and I told him when it hurt. After they assessed me, they said
I could have a fractured heel and asked me if I wanted to leave to go to the hospital. I told them
no and that I wanted one of the trainers to wrap my foot for me.
My mom and coach wanted me to just scratch the last event, but I didn’t want to give up,
I wanted to push through and finish out the meet strong. When it was time for our last rotation I
was trying to put some weight on my foot, when I walked on it the pain was excruciating, I tried
to pretend my foot wasn’t injured at all just to see if I would forget about it. I didn’t even warm

up bars at all, before it was my turn to compete my coach looked at me and asked if I was sure I
could do this, I just nodded and walked to stand up on the mat for the bars.
Luckily bars was last, because that requires the least amount of foot action, I
didn’t even think about my dismount because I knew that the landing would probably hurt really
bad. When I jumped onto the bars I tried to barely put any weight onto my foot. I went through
my routine fine, when I got to the point of my dismount I said a quick prayer that everything
would work out. As I released for my dismount, which was a double back tuck, I noticed my
coach stepped onto the mat. When I landed, I landed forcefully on my good foot and barely put
any weight on the other one, I stuck the landing though. I was so happy and I looked right to my
mom, who was a nervous wreck at this point, but I could see the excitement in her eyes.
I ended up coming in 2nd place at the competition. If I wouldn’t have fallen on
my dismount off of beam I would have been first, but if I would have scratched on bars, I would
have never even made it to the all around. I was proud of myself; I finished the meet, for my
team, coaches, and myself. Even though my mom and coach didn’t think it was a good idea for
me to finish the meet, I did it, and succeeded. After I went to the hospital and found out my heel
was fractured in two different places. I’m just thankful that I didn’t give up, and pushed through;
I will never forget the memory of that meet.
My gymnastics experience is something that I wouldn’t ever take back for anything. I
gained so much over the years of being involved with the sport. I learned how it felt to be a part
of a team and working together to build each other up. Gymnastics made me feel like I was
really working for something. Even though I didn’t finish up to the level I wanted to, which was

level ten, I was a level nine before I quit because of our move, it opened so many great
opportunities and built in skills and knowledge that I will never go away.