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Determined to Win

Svetlana Khorkina swore she would win gold, and when, on August 19th, 2004 she was defeated by the American girl, Patterson, she ground her teeth into a forced smile and showed the world that she was a good sport, accepting the silver with a calm and grace that belied the rage boiling inside her.

She deserved that gold medal. It was rightfully hers. She had been great for so long, a pinnacle of the gymnastics world, and she was good enough. Yet for years it had eluded her grasp, time after time. Its bright gleam under the fluorescent lights seemed to mock her.

They said she was done with the Olympics after that silver-medal performance. Shortly afterwards, she disappeared. She didn't show up for training, missed scheduled meets and competitions. Her family and friends didn't know where she had gone. But in 2008, rumours began circulating that she had been seen in Beijing, and when the Women's Individual All-Around competition was taking place, spectators roared with excitement when she burst through the doors, clambered onto the floor and tumbled her way across, nearly colliding with the Ukrainian gymnast (leading by twenty-three thousandths of a point). A few back handsprings into a double backflip in pike, and her left ankle shattered. She collapsed with a howl, and they finally got a good look at her.

Her hair was thinned and greying prematurely, her skin hanging loosely off her bones. Her sunken eyes were rimmed by angry, red lids and her pursed lips were almost grey.

Fighting off the medical personnel, she fled the gymnasium and disappeared again. She was found dead in a hotel room in St. Petersburg a few months later, and a small, sad funeral was held.

In 2012, New York City, a 16-year-old Romanian gymnast completed her floor routine almost flawlessly, triumphantly throwing her hands into the air and grinning. But the crowd had fallen silent. She opened her eyes and looked around. Shambling onto the vault runway, her paper-thin skin darkened with decay and one arm twisted unnaturally, Svetlana glared at the judges. She raised a bony hand to push what remained of her hair out of her face, then began to run in a hideous but almost comical fashion towards the vault. Reaching the springboard, she tried to jump but instead stumbled, tripped, fell, crashing into the vault and rolling sideways, a choked, hoarse roar emitting from her throat.

The world watched as she dragged herself off the apparatus and out of the stadium. Nobody moved to stop her.

2016, Tijuana, she was little more than a skeleton held together by strings of muscle and skin. She left one of her arms dangling from the uneven bars and moaned loudly for a full five minutes at 28-year-old Carly Patterson, who had become a commentator for NBC.

2020, Dubai, a French gymnast collapses and is later institutionalised after dismounting from the beam and crashing into Svetlana's corpse, knocking several of her ribs free and sending her lower jaw skittering away onto the judges' table.

2024, London. They found her skull on the path leading to the gymnasium after the competition was over. It wasn't moving.

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Comments

( 18 comments )
creednceclrh20
Aug. 20th, 2004 08:56 am (UTC)
eww. Did you write that?

I like Carly Patterson. She's so cute. Svetlana is scary.
creednceclrh20
Aug. 20th, 2004 08:57 am (UTC)
Oh, and I don't mean eww cuz it's not good. Eww because I can absolutely picture all of that happening...well, kind of! lol
rfreebern
Aug. 20th, 2004 11:30 am (UTC)
I did write that, precisely because Svetlana has always kind of freaked me out.

Anna Pavlova, Svetlana's teammate, was the absolute cutest gymnast there. When she didn't get the bronze and started crying it just broke my heart!
creednceclrh20
Aug. 20th, 2004 03:00 pm (UTC)
I think maybe she wouldn't be so scary if she smiled more often and maybe gained some weight so she doesn't look like such a skeleton. Also, you were right on with the pursed-lips thing.

Yeah, I felt bad for Pavlova too, but I was rooting for Carly. She just seems really sweet.
mangofandango
Aug. 20th, 2004 08:58 am (UTC)
Yay! :)
juxtapose_42
Aug. 20th, 2004 11:49 am (UTC)
i love you forever.

- Jux
rfreebern
Aug. 20th, 2004 01:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I love you forever too!
bohemelibrarian
Aug. 20th, 2004 01:52 pm (UTC)
You are awesome. :-D That made my day.
rfreebern
Aug. 20th, 2004 04:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I'm quite happy with it!
isnobot
Aug. 20th, 2004 02:18 pm (UTC)
That was remarkably eye catching.

Great job, awesome.
rfreebern
Aug. 20th, 2004 04:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
pididdle
Aug. 21st, 2004 08:29 am (UTC)
When I read this the first time I missed the whole 'she died in a hotel room' sentence, but upon reading it again, it makes much more sense. :p

There are quite a few creepy athletes out there, come on now folks, realize there is more to life than jumping the highest and running the rastest.
kat_kin
Aug. 22nd, 2004 09:37 pm (UTC)
Anna Pavlova broke my heart too. I'm glad she won bronze in vault.

Did you know she shares a name with a great ballerina?

Great writing. I much enjoyed it.
rfreebern
Aug. 23rd, 2004 07:15 am (UTC)
Thanks.

I did know about Anna Pavlova the ballerina. Did you know the delicious Aussie dessert called "pavlova" was named after her? :)
oxinterruptedxo
Sep. 8th, 2004 09:17 pm (UTC)
"They found her skull on the path leading to the gymnasium after the competition was over. It wasn't moving."

when does a skull ever move?
rfreebern
Sep. 8th, 2004 10:01 pm (UTC)
When does a dead gymnast ever return from the grave and attempt a high bar routine?
rfreebern
Sep. 8th, 2004 10:14 pm (UTC)
Sorry, that was kind of a snarky response.

I understand what you mean; thinking about it, the last sentence could probably have been more expressive of what I was going for. But then, I post these things as first drafts so I know they're not fully polished.

Thanks for the feedback.
drag0nf1y
Sep. 13th, 2004 10:38 pm (UTC)
I just came across this in a quasi-random way . . . I love it.

\m/ >.< \m/
( 18 comments )

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