Last Saturday, Maya competed in her biggest Taekwondo tournament to date. For the last couple months she has stretched twice a day, she's attended extra classes and she's worked one on one with the director of her studio. She's put in a tremendous amount of work all so she could do well on Saturday. This tournament was a qualifier for the Junior Olympics.
Husband and I are in training too. Extra classes for Maya means extra classes for us. Two-a-day stretching means that I asked twice a day, "Maya, did you stretch yet?" It means I held her leg up against a wall at impossible heights because she needs a near-split side kick to medal in forms. It means Husband gave her pep talks and tips after every class. We are training a ten year old athlete and that means she follows our lead, not just our verbal instruction. Hardly ever did she whine or complain. Her desire never wavered.
Saturday, I watched my girl perform at a level I hadn't seen before. In forms, when she kicked her first side kick higher than ever before, my skin rose off my body. It was a near-perfect program and out of eight girls, she earned a silver by a subjective three tenths of a point. In sparring, she mercied the girl in her first match meaning out of two rounds, they stopped the fight in the first round because Maya had scored seven points to zero. In Maya's second match, she sparred a girl who had flown in from the Philippines. After the first round, the score was zero to zero and in the second, Maya started to slow and tire and her opponent scored points off a nice flurry of kicks. Maya lost, but she earned bronze. The girl from the Philippines, gold.
But what this all means is that Maya earned a spot to compete in the Junior Olympic Championships 2006. My ten year old black belt beauty gets to go to the Junior Olympics which will be held in Atlanta this July.
Immediately after the elation of her qualification, Husband and I realized the cost involved with getting to a Junior Olympics 2,600 miles away. We panicked wondering if we could even entertain the thought. We were geniuses in honing her natural talent, but we felt on the verge of failing her if we couldn't afford such an elusive opportunity. We were experiencing winner's let down. Maya had no clue. She kept saying, elatedly, "You guys were right, the work does pay off!" She was so proud of herself. And Husband and I said, "Yes, sweetheart," but we said nothing to each other, not wanting to admit the sobering practicality of the situation.
We slept on it. And the next morning, without much discussion, Husband and I both knew we would get Maya to Atlanta one way or another. We couldn't let her miss this opportunity she worked so hard to earn. We are full steam ahead to work hard for her too. So, we started to spread the word about her accomplishment. We were pledged support. I ordered colorful custom rubber bracelets to sell for fundraising. On one bracelet, I had printed "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams." For the other, I asked Maya what she wanted it to say. I said, "You could put 'Go Maya 2006', or whatever you want." She said, "I want it to say, 'Whatever it takes, follow your dreams.'" I rubbed her hand. "Perfect," I said. "Whatever it takes." The Rivera family is on The Road to Atlanta, whatever it takes.