One of the most nerve-wracking moments of my life happened tonight, as I waited for the final score on floor in the Olympic all-around final. I had finished and was in first place, but Russian gymnast Viktoria Komova was the last gymnast to go and had done an amazing floor routine. My heart was absolutely racing.
Do I have it? Do I not have it? Will I be first? Second?
My coach, Liang Chow, said, “You’re the Olympic champion! You have it!”
But I couldn’t believe him until I saw the scoreboard. When I finally saw the results, I was speechless. Tears of joy streamed down my face, and I started waving to the crowd and my family in the stands.
When my mom first took me to Chow’s gym two years ago, she told him I wanted to be an Olympic champion someday. He told her he would do his best. He jokes now that he wasn’t so sure he could do it.
He has pushed me so hard, and some days I would wonder, “Why do I have to do this?” In the end, though, he believed in me and all the hard work really did paid off. He and his wife Li have shaped me into a better gymnast than I ever thought I could be.
When I first got here to London, I was in some pain from a tweaked muscle. I was feeling a little down. But Chow reminded me that everyone has pain. He said, “Don’t focus on that, you’re at the Olympics! If you don’t push it now, you’ll regret it.” He got me refocused, and, of course, he was right. When I got to the competition and all the nerves kicked in, I didn’t feel a thing.
Tonight, I didn’t think about avoiding mistakes — that’s what gets you into trouble. Instead, I just thought about going out there and representing Team USA, my coaches, my family and myself as best as I could. I just wanted to enjoy the moment. Chow told me not to fear what might happen, but to just believe in myself.
People have asked if I felt like I was on fire here in London, but I just feel normal, the same as I do every day in practice. The difference has been that I was ready to seize the moment, to focus and to trust in what I can do.
You say you want to do it and you dream about it every day, but then when it happens, it’s hard to believe it really has. Tonight, when the U.S. flag was raised and the national anthem played, there were so many camera flashes going off I felt like I was at a concert.
And the crazy thing was, they were all taking pictures of me.