Friday, August 22, 2008

Vaulting Terror

The first couple of years I attended CSH, three days of the week we had normal PE class (complete with dodgeball) and two days of the week we had gymnastics. Yes, gymnastics, with tumbling mats, a balance beam, uneven parallel bars, and a vaulting horse (which has since been replaced by a thing that looks like a big tongue).

I wonder if they can still afford the liability insurance for that equipment.

Watching the gymnastics meets at the Olympics, I was suddenly reminded of the terror the vaulting horse held for me in middle school. I'm not sure why this year I was reminded of it; certainly I've never forgotten that we had gymnastics class as I still know how to do a cartwheel, and I've seen pieces of gymnastics meets many times since 1980. One moment I was watching the event and the next I was remembering one of the girls in my class calling out "Go!" and each girl's name as they started running toward the horse. She was ahead of me in line so I didn't have to worry about whether she was going to call out my name or not (I didn't think she would have if my turn had been ahead of hers).

I was one of the least athletic girls in the class and I would always, always, have preferred to be reading a book. I disliked gymnastics less than I disliked PE, mostly because in gymnastics I wasn't picked second-to-last for a team that I would then let down during the game. Even so, I sucked at almost everything but stretching, and had to face mocking about how I couldn't even do this or that in gymnastics.

The thing I sucked at the most, however, was the vaulting horse. An excellent student would run down the path, hit the springboard, and jump over the horse with just her palms touching it, and land on the mats behind, hands in the air a' la Nadia Comaneci. The other successful students would run down the path, hit the springboard, and jump onto the horse in a crouch, then jump down onto the mat and "Y" their arms.

I would run down the path, hit the springboard, and just bounce enough to get my hands flat on the horse. I was never convinced that I was running fast enough to jump high enough to not crash directly into the horse. I never got high enough to raise my knees to even get on the horse. The teacher would give me several attempts, and I would fail at them all, out of fear.

Eventually the 1980's and aerobics came along. I think younger kids continued to take gymnastics, but in 7th and 8th grades we alternated aerobics with PE.

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