Gymnasts speak out about mental health and the pressure to be perfect

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“Right when you walk out on the competition floor you see everybody in the stands, you see all these people warming up or competing and…it’s just a lot,” describes elite athlete Lyric Gordon.

We’re taught from a very young age — judging is wrong. However, gymnasts like Makenna and Lyric have been judged for as long as they can remember.

They don’t seem to mind though. The pressure is all about doing their best, so they can win — it’s about that perfect score. There’s an indestructible desire for these tumblers to make their families and coaches proud. Lyric explains, “You like need to do good, so you don’t let anyone down.”

When you’re flying through the air you’re fighting not just to stay alive once you land, but to look perfect in the process. When danger and fierce pressure to look flawless combine, the result can be a terrifying amount of distress all weighed upon young athletes’ shoulders.

Advanced tumbler Makenna elaborates on this fear. “It can be insanely scary,” she explained, “you’re doing dangerous stuff that affects not only your physical health like you could get hurt, break something, but you’re mental health.”

Makenna has tumbled for six seasons and is on track to go elite like Lyric. She’s hitting double flips and tricks, but that’s not without sacrifice… and of course pressure lurking in the back of her mind.

She’s learned some lessons along her tumbling path, “key to progressing is understanding that you’re not perfect. Makenna says, “no one is perfect and you have to work harder to get near perfect.”

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