A face in the crowd

This is a guest post by Luisa, a dear friend of mine and fellow gymnastics enthusiast, who relates the story of her encounter with “the hero of her teenage years”.

I had to look twice. Yes, it was true. Simona Amanar was sitting just 5 seats away from me among the crowd that came to see the all around final at the World Championships in Rotterdam. Probably the fact that I was staring at her with the camera in my hands attracted her attention. She gave me an encouraging smile and I dared to take a photo of her. After some hesitation I asked her whether she will take a photo with me. She seemed happy to be recognized and agreed for a picture. Coming back to my seat, all flushed with emotions I heard the talk of the people around me. “Who is she? Is she a famous gymnast?”

Well, she did become a famous gymnast. But before that she was the hero of my teenage years.  Probably my fascination with her and with the other girls from the team was related to the fact that she managed to achieve something at an age that I still believed that I had to perform well in school to make my parents happy. Maybe I admired her because my childhood was still running through my veins and I would still climb trees and run on the school’s corridors attempting somersaults and gymnastics moves.

To me, each world championship in the 90’s was similar to a Sailor Moon episode in which a team of teenage girls dressed in Sailor Senshi uniforms would always win the battle with their enemy. Just like the Japanese anime characters our girls always managed to summon their special powers that made them fly over the uneven bars and perform supernatural moves on floor and beam. And they always returned home with the medals. Little by little they brought back the gold, silver, and bronze treasury which made Romanians so happy, so satisfied, and so proud. The team would be received at the airport by officials eager to shake hands and take pictures with the medaled gymnasts, associating themselves with the conquest of the treasury and breathing their golden success. As if those conquests were an immense sun appeared to cast away the shadows of the post-communist insecurity. A short while after each battle, the girls’ smiles would shine from the cover of the magazines or from large side-of-the-road advertising billboard and then quietly fade away at Deva. Here, the girls would shut themselves off from the commoners’ world to prepare for a new adventure.  

In the last episode of the Sailor Moon series, Usagi Tsukino (Sailor Moon) managed to defeat her nemesis (Sailor Galaxia) and lead her team to supreme victory restoring light, peace, and justice all over the universe. Just before the last curtain fall Usagi Tsukino is pictured in her commoner clothes aspiring to a normal teenage life, tired of battles, in love with the world and with her boyfriend. Right now she is probably taking a stroll on the crowded streets in Tokyo making people wonder where and when they saw that face before? 

Article by: Luisa B

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