Written by Elizabeth Chung
Junior Dana Zhao was a national champion in acrobatic gymnastics, but the road to success was not easy. Chosen to represent the United States for the Acrobatic Gymnastics World Championship her freshman year in Sofia, Bulgaria, Zhao had to go through intense training for preparation. “I remember getting up at 4 in the morning because we had morning practices and I had to come to school and had to go back to practice after,” Zhao said.
As the member of Team USA, Zhao was nervous since it was her first time competing internationally and she ended up making mistakes. “Basically, I fell twice when I was competing,” Zhao said. “I had three routines and I fell on two of them on the same skill. It was really disappointing because that skill had been really strong leading up to the competition and even during warm-up and I was fairly sure that we would make it.”
When she came back home, Zhao had nationals coming up before the season finished. Although quitting before the season is looked down upon, she wanted to quit. “I was tired of practicing,” Zhao said. “I practiced really hard leading up to the competition and I didn’t do very well.”
During the time of hardship, her coaches helped her get back on track. “I actually made up excuses to get out of practice and I think my coaches caught on,” Zhao said. “They talked to me and somehow I found the motivation to start practicing hard for the nationals and the next few months, I tried to work hard even though I wasn’t into it anymore.” Her hard work paid off and she ended up placing first in the nationals.
Zhao believes that although she quit acrobatic gymnastics the year after, it has definitely shaped the person who she is now. “Even though I am not doing anything physically challenging as gymnastics anymore, I definitely do things that are
out of my comfort zone, like academically challenging,” Zhao said. “The whole experience of persevering shows up in my life. I go for different things and try to accomplish new things.” To the people who are in a similar situation as she was after the international competition, Zhao encourages them to persevere. “Things don’t always go as planned, but keep pushing through and you’ll get there,” Zhao said. “Just keep going, even if you feel like you are not get- ting anywhere, just keep going up to an extent.”