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John Orozco: Being In The Moment

By John Orozco, 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnast | Dec. 12, 2014, 11:21 a.m. (ET)

Men's and women's all-around medalists

Bronze-medal roommates at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs

Even before arriving in Glasgow, Scotland, this year for the 2014 Glasgow World Cup, I knew it was going to be a more positive experience than last year. I finished fourth place in 2013 and was very disappointed in my performance. I was mostly upset that I didn’t win a medal. So before arriving in Glasgow this year I told myself I would appreciate the opportunity and just focus on enjoying the experience. I realized that last year I put more importance on the outcome rather than focusing on the present moment that I was competing. Every event I was ready to compete, I was already thinking of my next event, my usual deductions, my average score. The equipment was totally different and hard for me to adjust to. The weather was freezing and raining every day. So pretty much I was finding anything wrong with the trip to be the cause of my subpar performance in the comp, or so I claimed.

This year when I was invited back to compete I was so excited to finish up the competition year at a high-level world cup event. The Glasgow World Cup competition is the second in a series of world cups that feature the top eight all-around all-around gymnast from the previous world championships. First is the Stuttgart World Cup in Germany, second is the Glasgow World Cup in Scotland. The American Cup alternates cities in the U.S. every year and then the final world cup is in Japan. I competed in three out of the four world cups and missed the podium, finishing in either fourth or fifth place. This year, my teammate Donnell Whittenburg was selected to compete at the Stuttgart World Cup. I was glad to see Donnell placed third in the all-around. Then, the next weekend it was my turn to go at it in Glasgow.

Clyde Auditorium and SSE Hydro arena

Once I saw the line up of my competitors, I knew it was going to be a hard competition! My competitors were strong so I knew I had to be on my “A game.” After a 24+ hour trip to Glasgow, I checked into the hotel. My room over looked the River Clyde and there was a window right by the elevators of my floor where I could see the Clyde Auditorium and the SSE Hydro arena. I would stare at them every time I waited for the elevator and my mind would go silent for a minute. Moments like these make me realize the amazing opportunities I have: traveling the world and seeing/experiencing things I have never dreamed of. Letting my mind shut off from the worries of the past and future helps me to appreciate the present.

Before the competition I was invited to Glasgow’s “City Chamber” (City Hall) for a photo shoot to promote the 2016 World Championships which are being held in Glasgow. To my surprise, the interior design of the building was more impressive than its exterior.

Glasgow City Chambers 

It reminded me of the moving staircase in Hogwarts from the Harry Potter movies. The photographer shot multiple portraits and ads used for the 2014 Commonwealth Games that were held in Glasgow. The photo shoot flew by and it was an enjoyable part of the trip!

Competition day: Dec. 7 is here. The competition starts with an introduction of the athletes that makes you feel like a movie star! The entrance to the competition floor was covered in fog, your name and face on the Jumbotron, and flames that erupted from both sides of the podium as you walk out with a spotlight on you and wave to the crowd. When it was my turn I was just thinking “OK, John, let’s not roll your ankle walking down these foggy steps and blinding spotlight." As we waited for the introductions to finish, the running joke was that before the competition started, we would be roasted from standing so close to the flames!

The Emeritus Arena holds thousands of spectators and was literally sold out. At world cup competitions gymnasts compete one at a time. After the first event, the order of competing athletes continuously changes throughout the competition according to score. It goes in rank order from last to first place. When I stepped on the floor to start my routine, it was so quiet that all I could hear was my own breathing. It’s completely different than when you have your teammates there cheering or crowd talking/cheering to break the silence. 

Overall, the competition went exceptionally well for me. The pommel horse was the only big hiccup in my performances. Halfway through I was feeling sluggish since the competition was nearly six hours long. I needed to be amped up for my parallel bars routine, so before I went up to the podium I slapped myself to wake up. In the corner of my eye, I see my friend Ellie Black (amazing Canadian gymnast) burst out laughing...at me. The “exchange” of laughs certainly lightened my mood a bit. I ended the meet with a clean high bar routine, placing third in the all-around. Walking up to the podium I remembered how much importance I put on medaling last year and when I came in fourth I asked myself, “How did I get here?” I just smiled this time because I asked myself the same question and the answer was...I didn't focus on medaling, I focused on being in the moment.

Athletes’ night out in Glasgow (post-competition) 

The end banquet was held in an upscale restaurant called the Rotunda. Some of the best athletes in the world were just eating dinner, exchanging stories with the fun of language barriers and hand gestures. As dinner went by I kept reminding myself how lucky I am to be among such a talented group of gymnasts as well as good people. There was nothing but positive energy in the room. SO many big personalities around the table, different cultures, different life challenges, but we all manage to be so respectful of each other, kind, genuine and supportive. After dinner a few of the athletes gathered at the hotel for a well-deserved, fun night out on the town. One of my favorite things is to see how we can be so intense in competition, representing our country trying to beat one another, then to totally turn it off and enjoy each other’s company once competition is over.

Usually on the ride to the airport after a competition, I replay the entire trip back in my mind. The best parts about being an elite gymnast are things like sitting together at lunch between practices with your competitors/friends from all different countries and watching videos on YouTube, telling funny stories, exchanging Snapchats or discussing future plans beyond gymnastics. Being in the present of your life (in the moment) and appreciating the little things in life are some of the things that keep me grounded.

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head shot

John Orozco