Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A 35 year old athletes return

Life is more fun when it's tough and you change "tough" to "done".

I've been struggling with how to answer "How are you?" for a long time. I would say I still haven't figured it out, but I'm getting closer.

"fine" ... clearly I didn't want to talk about it. But I usually did.

"good" ... in good conscious I couldn't tell people this.

"bad" ... but was it always bad? what felt like a majority of my time should have been good.

My name is Justice Frangipane and I retired from gymnastics (as an senior elite trampolinist) at 32 after my beautiful daughter Skye Akemi Frangipane was born.

As a Senior Elite trampolinist (Olympic level), I had competed at the bottom of the top 8 for the last few years that I competed. I wasn't an "olympic hopeful" or "one to watch". I was the oldest guy in the sport from the US. I would occasionally make routines and it was typically fairly amazing and exciting to watch. But for reasons like,

"I can't believe he completed that!"

"I've never seen a routine done that low!"

"Not bad for... how old is he?"

and the typical "How many skills do you think he'll make before he crashes?"

Now bottom of the top 8 in the whole United States may sound like a big deal. But there was almost never more than 20 competitors in the country, typically less than 12. Most competitions about half the competitors would crash, so if you did an easier routine and finished, top 8! But you would never beat the top 4.

My best wasn't even close to the best of us. I couldn't jump as high, flip as fast, or compete the more difficult skills in their routines.

I also trained with Austin White, Logan Dooley, and Neil Gulati, three superstars in our sport by which I had always paled in comparison.

My dream was to make it to the national team. Each one of my teammates was on the US Nation Team for as long as I could remember. I was the only senior elite athlete that wasn't good enough to make it. The year before I retired I was ranked 7th in the country, they took top 6 on the national team. Before that competition year started one of the top 6 officially retired leaving an unused spot, filled by a name and not a person traveling and competing. An unused spot.... with me the next replacement and them unwilling to put me in it. In truth I don't blame them. I would have been an embarrassment to our country at that stage.

I retired never reaching my dream.

Does that make me feel like a failure? No. But it feels like going to college for 8 years and not being able to complete the last semester of schooling and leaving without a degree.

Does that make me occasionally sad? Yes.

Two weeks ago I took 2nd place in regions 1&2 (West Coast) with my highest difficulty routine I've ever competed at the age of 35.

This blog is the story of my return.

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