There was a definite difference between the energy and the crowd during prelims than during finals. Walking into the arena, the air was filled with excitement and cheering. The view from my seat this time was beam! Which always makes me happy. I was also sitting behind Al, Tim and Nastia so I could see what they were broadcasting as well as what was live.
And then before the meet started, I had my biggest fangirl moment of the meet. I looked up from my seat and who was standing there but my very favorite gymnast, Laurie Hernandez! Laurie built quite a name for herself- and quite a fan base- at this championship, so lots of little girls kept coming up to her. And yup, you guessed it, I joined in. Twice, because my first photo with her was blurry.
It is easy to forget just how young these girls are. But like any normal pre-teen, Laurie just wanted her friends around. She eventually gathered a whole little group of juniors to sit with her. They cheered for the seniors, got ice cream, and just enjoyed themselves. The best moment was when Laurie found out that they were showing her floor routine on the NBC broadcast. She got her OMG face on and fanned herself. Oh how I hope the pressures of the spotlight don’t diminish her delightful personality from shining through!
Throughout the meet girls in the stands were competing as intensely as the girls on the floor. Their goal? Waves from Jordyn, Aly or Gabby when they screamed “We love you [insert name].” There were also fun moments when they brought gymnasts out on the floor and Aly, Gabby or Jordyn would surprise them. Oh! And when John Macready had a contest where a two dads raced down the vault runway with their daughters on their back. They were big dudes and they bowled John over.
Apart from all the shenanigans, my favorite part of watching the championships live (apart from the obvious gymnastics part) is seeing the girls and their families. Remembering how much all the family members have sacrificed to get them there. How the experience bonds them together.
Even with the dramatic ending of Simone missing on bars, the mood and atmosphere in the arena was distinctly celebratory. Celebrating 50 years of gymnastics just brought such an appreciation of the support, of all the champions in the room and of the incredible privilege it is that we all get to be a part of it.