This article is part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020

By Aahana Khemani

I said my goodbyes and boarded a plane to Noida, Delhi with my mother. I was as nervous as an old rat being chased by a young cat, if only worse. After all, this was my first experience of going to nationals. I was a young 8-year-old artistic skater who won at the states and was selected to represent Maharashtra at the nationals.  

I went over my routine a billion times in the flight. I was staying at my family friend’s house in Delhi and was given a warm welcome. My other skating friends were staying at a hotel closer to the skating rink. Every day, I would wake up early and would go to the rink to either practice or watch the other competitors perform their routines. I was star-struck by how gracefully and perfectly the older skaters skated.

Then, it was time for my performance. I was excited as ever but also nervous. As I put on my sparkly blue costume and tied my hair in a tight ponytail, my hands shook. There were so many people performing in my category! I prayed and prayed that my routine would be amazing and that everyone would be staring in awe. 

I entered the rink, all eyes on me. The music played before I was ready. I felt lost and stranded. Luckily, my skating teacher cued for the music to start again and this time, I was ready. Bring it on! 

I twirled and jumped and spun and danced. My costume and my ponytail went along with the music and my momentum. I thought nothing could go better. I was so caught up in my joy, that when I was landing one of my jumps, I tripped and fell. The audience let out a long gasp. I was devastated. But, as I had been trained, I got up and gracefully continued. Everything went smoothly after that, but that fall, deducted many points. 

The results were out. I placed 9th. I was heartbroken. Those 5:00 am practices before nationals those hard-working training sessions. All to waste, I thought.

But, little did I know, that day I learnt one of the biggest lessons of my life. 8-year-old me was obviously going to be all teary, although, my dad told me, that failures were supposed to be celebrated and learnt from. Without failing, you can’t succeed. 

After that, I was more settled down. That advice really got me thinking. The next year, I placed 5th. My skating teacher and my parents helped me get there. From my reflections, dedication and practice would have taken me even higher. Like it did from my first to my second nationals.