(part two, competition)
After we finished skating and came down off the adrenaline high we were on, we started overanalyzing and picking apart our performance, worrying about every little thing that had gone even a tiny bit wrong.
"I stepped forward too early in the circle!"
"I went through the wrong hole in the 3-turn pass."
"Did you say 'shit' out loud when you went through the wrong hole? At Nationals??"
"I stumbled and almost fell in the block and went out of line."
"Was the solo skating lined up?"
And so on, and so forth. It was nerves, of course, and the helpless knowledge that our placement was now out of our hands. A combination of wanting to believe we'd done a great job, and the fear that it hadn't been enough. Our coach reminded us, "You guys skated an awesome program. I'm proud of you. Now it's just up to the judges; it depends on what they wanted to see."
We took off our skates and went into the stands. We'd skated 3rd out of 11 teams, so we watched the second half of the competition. It just made us more nervous. The programs were all clean, and there were a few very good ones.
Then the flight ended, and there was nothing to do but endure the agonizing wait for the results to be posted. I paced and fidgeted, unable to keep still. The waiting is worse than the actual skating!
The awards ceremony for the Adult Masters division was going on, and I watched to see how the ceremony worked. So I'd know what to do, in the hopes that we would be involved! The awards ceremony for the Adult Open division was directly afterward. But the results had not been posted, so we didn't know if we needed to go get ready for it or not (only the top 4 teams participate).
Watching the Masters' awards, my heart broke a little bit. In years past, there has been a large podium where two skaters (the team captains) from each place stand, and the team lines up behind their spot on the podium. The awards are ceremoniously given to the captains, then to the rest of the team.
This year, the podium was only big enough for one person. Like I wrote last October in my entry titled The Season Where All Your Wishes Come True (which, incidentally, turned out to be totally accurate!), the main reason I'd wanted to be captain was for the glory of standing on the podium. I just thought that would be so cool. But since I'm only co-captain, I knew that the captain should be the person to have that honor. I wanted her to have that honor! I'd just wanted to share it with her.
So there I was: I didn't even know what place we'd gotten yet, but I was already getting disappointed because no matter what, I wouldn't be on the top of the podium. While waiting for results, I went through such a rush of conflicting emotions. I "practiced" being excited that we'd won, being upset that we hadn't, even being pissed off and feeling robbed, and a good dozen others. I was just trying vainly to prepare myself for whatever happened.
The results were being posted on the hallway. A couple of people were "lookouts" there, waiting, the rest of us were in the arena watching the Masters' award ceremony. I was near the back of the group. Suddenly everyone on my team started cheering and jumping up and down. I hadn't heard why; I was too far away. So I started to feel a rush of elation, even while trying to make sure I was celebrating for the right reason!
It quickly became clear that we'd won, we'd finally done it, we were national champions. I joined the fray, hugging everyone and jumping around and cheering. My eyes got teary with relief and joy. We did it: we gave them everything we had, and they bought it -- they gave us the gold.
I later saw the results sheet, and 8 of the 9 judges had placed us first. The 2nd-4th place marks were all over, but the first place team was almost unanimously agreed upon.
We quickly grabbed our skate bags and hurried down to the locker room to get ready for our awards ceremony. As we walked by the second-place team (who had won the title last year), they applauded. I thought that was very sportsmanlike of them; I know how extremely hard it is to be in that position and be gracious.
I quickly put on my skates, then S (the team captain) was motioning for me to hurry up and join her. The ceremony had already started, and we had to hurry out there! Fortunately as the first-place team we came out last.
She had also watched the masters' awards, and knew the situation. As we were both walking quickly toward the ice, she told me, "You should go up."
I immediately replied, "No, you should go up! You're the 'real' captain." We bickered like this down the hallway, each unwilling to take the honor for ourselves. I sincerely thought it should be her though, because I felt she'd done more for the team. Yes I wanted desperately to do it, but I wanted to do it beside her not in place of her.
Finally she said, "Are you skating next year?" I admitted that no, I wasn't planning on it. "Then you should do it. I'll do it next year," she said decisively. I didn't know how to respond to this, and we were at the door. The referee asked us who was going out first, and she immediately said, "She is!" There was no more chance to argue.
He told us where we should go when they announced us, and what to do. Then the loudspeaker announced, "The 2004 national champions, Team Elan!" They started playing the beginning of our music. I skated out first, with S right behind me.
We skated in a circle, then got into a line by the podium. Then I stepped out and took the topmost place on it. I was so giddy with joy, I wasn't quite sure what I was doing! I hope I did everything right, and was properly gracious with the other teams and their captains (like I said, I know how hard it is to be there). I tried to be.
I shook the hands and hugged the girls on the 2nd-4th place steps and congratulated them. The girl from the 2nd place team was especially nice to me, and she said we'd done a great job this season. Then the ceremony began.
There were marines standing at attention, holding the awards. There was a representative from the USFSA to present to each of the teams. My guy was the one in the tan jacket. First they gave a bouquet for flowers to each person.
Next they presented the medals. The man hung the medal around my neck, he congratulated me, and I thanked him, giving him a hug and kiss. Then I straightened up and took hold of my gold medal. I kissed it triumphantly, then raised it to show my team.
Finally was the presentation of the championship plate. I knew what was coming, and I was looking excitedly right at the man presenting it, grinning like a fool. He joked, "We have to stop meeting like this!", and I laughed. Then he handed me the plate, and I raised it aloft, displaying it to the team. Then I turned and held it over my head, showing the audience. (That's the picture I posted earlier, my favorite of the ones I have found online.)
After the fancy ceremony, we climbed down off the podium and joined our teams for photographs. But first I talked to the 2nd and 3rd place captains (the 4th place girl skated off before I could catch her too). I congratulated them again, and said how nervous I'd been watching them skate. Also I said that this was probably the most competitive adult competition we'd had yet, and how wonderful it was that we had so many strong teams.
To say that it was an exciting and exhilarating experience would be an understatement. These are memories I'm sure I will cherish all my life.