When I was eight years old, I was a terribly uncoordinated gymnast who excelled at handstands and bombed spectacularly at beam.
Five of my friends joined the Castle Hill RSL Gymnastics Club after I started- we cheered each other on, dunked our palms in the chalk bin as if we needed it, clapped them solemnly together (like weight lifters do), before saluting perfectly and entering our bar “routines” (read: practising our front supports and back hip circles, which are the very basic of the most basic components of tiny sections of a proper gymnast’s bar routine). In the four years we were there, none of us ever improved enough to reach the “Levels”. We stayed firmly rooted in “Recreational”— only advancing slightly, never regressing, and forever infatuated with the possibility of being good enough to wear a leotard (in recreational, it was bike pants and tucked in t-shirts only).
While we each had our relative strengths (Deb: nice pointed toes on the beam, Vanessa F: cartwheels, Joanne B: tuck jumps), none of us was flexible enough to do the splits. We aimed to at least be able to do the side splits (ie where your legs are in a straight line out to your sides), and never really hoped we’d ever achieve the front splits (ie where your legs are in a straight line to the front and back), but one day, we found a way to make ourselves feel like we’d improved.
Whenever our coach, Tim, shouted: “front splits!”, we would fold our front leg underneath, and extend our back leg so that it was perfectly straight. Just like the girl in this picture. The feeling of being so close to the carpet for once; of almost being able to emulate the impossible; of practically being able to do the mother of all moves— was euphoric. We grinned at each other, elated.