In 1976, Olga Korbut again inspired us to do more difficult tricks on the balance beam. I must have hounded my father into making a beam for me. He sanded and varnished a piece of wood, and put it up in our back yard near by bedroom window. My beam was the standard four inches wide, and probably about three feet of the ground.
While Olga was doing back flips and crazy back bends on the beam, I was honing my skills with a full turn, a shoulder roll, and some other fabulous moves that certainly would help get me into the Olympics one day.
During practice at school, I learned how to do cartwheels on the beam and a dismount that was a no-handed round off. This move was quite simple for me, and I wanted to show it off to my friends and cousins one day from my own backyard balance beam.
I kicked off my sneakers and hopped up on the beam while explaining what I was going to do. I gracefully moved to the end of the beam and prepared for the most fabulous dismount that they would ever see in person (and not on TV). I moved my arms around, and my feet followed.
All of a sudden, the momentum stopped and I was in the air suspended parallel to the ground for what seemed to be an eternity. I looked around at the faces while I was in the air looking something like Wylie Coyote when he runs off the cliff when chasing the Road Runner.
They all had their mouths open and I was splayed out in mid-air. And then all of a sudden, gravity took over and SPLAT. I landed flat on the lawn. Arms extended, legs straight out, and you could hear the WOOOSH of air come out of my lungs. The audience all held their breath and looked down on me lying on the ground. I sucked in a big breath and they all sighed. When I finally could breathe, we all started to laugh.
The only thing I can say about that incident, was thank God my mother didn’t see my fabulous dismount, because she would have had my father sawing the legs off that balance beam faster than you could hum the first few bars of the USSR’s national anthem.