A hit routine and a massive sigh of relief. I clap my hands together, the grips sending a cloud of dust up into the air, and salute the judges, maybe for the final time.
Hopping down from the podium, Emma hugs me before I really find my feet. Coach Pauline is next, a woman who knows me better than even my parents. Over her shoulder I catch Gibby's eye, but there's no emotion there. No pleasure or satisfaction, only an unidentifiable steeliness. He looks away.
I'd done what he'd asked, hadn't I?
Was it enough?
"C'mon," Emma murmurs as our coach lets me go. There are tears in Pauline's eyes when I pull away. Tears of joy? Sadness? Both?
I grab Emma's hand and squeeze.
"I knew you had it," she says, squeezing back.
That's what breaks me. I yank her hand and pull her close, the tears starting to gather in the corner of my eyes. "I'm so proud of you. So proud of us."
"Me too." Her voice cracks, but she sniffs past the emotion, something else she's better at than me.
Pauline slides her arms around our shoulders as we pull away. Then together, we walk toward the corner of the arena as the final competitor is announced.
"And now on floor exercise, from Redwood Shores Gymnastics, Daniela Olivero!"
The powers that be knew what they were doing when they assigned Dani the final spot in the final rotation. Her The Greatest Showman routine is super popular with gym fans, and she's pretty spectacular on the floor, with insanely high tumbling and a ridiculous amount of energy throughout.
Up until last year, she was on the fringes of the elite ranks, but everything's sort of come together for her in the months leading up to the Games.
The music gets the crowd on its feet immediately. I look at Emma, and her eyes twinkle back at me. Together, we start dancing along. The choreography of Dani's routine is fabulous, and we've seen it over and over again at National Gymnastics Committee camps.
Sierra Montgomery and Jaime Pederson, two white Oklahoma girls who always do everything together, are laughing at us, but they get swept up in the song too, letting their hips sway with the rhythm.
The music comes to an end as Dani nails her final tumbling pass and the whole arena roars in approval, a wave of sound crashing over us. My pain is a fleeting thing now, a tingle at the back of my mind as every single competitor on the floor starts to give one another impromptu hugs.
I pull away from Sierra and then Jaime and try to catch my breath when I'm nearly bowled over by Chelsea Cameron. Despite barely topping out at five feet tall, she nearly takes me down on impact, her textured brown curls catching against my damp cheek. She's crying and probably not even aware of who she's hugging because we've barely exchanged more than a couple of words over the years. Dani is still hugging her coach, but eventually Emma gets her in a bear hug—as much as a girl who weighs ninety pounds can bear-hug anyone—and then she's pulled over to the rest of us.
Bittersweet tears prick in the corners of my eyes. It's overwhelming, going out and doing everything you can to prove you belong and still not knowing if it was enough.
Almost against my will, my gaze flickers to the scoreboard. I don't want to look, but I have to. The combined scores from two days of competition are displayed for everyone to see, and before I let my fate be decided by Gibby, I need to know where I stand. Though my vision is increasingly blurry from the gathering tears, I can see my name clearly enough.
1. Emma Sadowsky 118.2
2. Daniela Olivero 118.0
3. Sierra Montgomery 117.1
4. Jaime Pederson 116.3
5. Audrey Lee 115.4
6. Chelsea Cameron 110.5
Everyone finished as expected, though I'm a little surprised at how close it is between Emma and Dani. There are four spots on the Olympic team, and I'm in fifth, but all-around scores don't matter as much as what Gibby wants. Let's be real: his opinion is the only thing that matters.