Gong was simply the best in her dancing class. She did every routine perfectly, able to combine different kinds of disciplines and styles with modern music. She thought classical music was out of the game now and that dance needed something else to make it more interesting. She was also a gymnast, which made her even better to the eyes of her teacher and more annoying to the eyes of every single one of her classmates. They all knew she actually thought she was a better person only because of her achievements and knowledge and they didn’t try to make her feel welcome.
The girl didn’t care. She was only fourteen but knew very well how to treat people and how to behave by herself. She had to think she was the best to be the best every single time, in every competition and every class. It got very tiring and pretending something that she wasn’t sure was true was very exhausting. She did not do it in daily life, preferring to relate more to her sister and her parents. But only her father because her mother was all too obsessed with her practicing and winning and it had gotten to be unbearable to be in the same room with her, always criticizing and thinking she was being encouraging but wasn’t.
Her father wanted all that for her too, but he didn’t as much. He always reminded Gong to have fun and never forget that dance and sports were not about destroying oneself on a mat but about making the art bigger and better. She listened to this and though of it always before any of her presentations. To be honest, the days of fear had passed because she had learned not to care about anyone but her, especially when performing. She just put the world out of focus and did what she had to do.
Gong loved to use rock songs for her performances. Hip-hop was the kind of music everyone used to seem different and classical with any change was too dull for her. She had won a tournament by performing, all five of her events, with songs by Metallica. It was her who designed every single movement, not needing or asking for any kind of help. She used to have a trainer but she left him as soon as she realized he only pressured her to be the one to gain all the recognition.
She got rid of him and decided to be dedicated and train everyday at least an hour by herself. Her parents were very supportive and it was all unnoticeable for the media or the judges of the next big event after that. She was praised so much; no one even realized she had no trainer but only her loving parents and her sister. After that particular time, she was asked to be photograph for many famous magazines because she had won a slot on the Olympics, which were going to be celebrated in Rio de Janeiro.
Practice was intensified. She practiced every morning, from sunrise to lunch. She only had a slight breakfast on a very short break and then kept on going. Her diet had not been consulted with a doctor but her parents read all about them to make every meal appropriate for her. It was dreadful, she knew, especially for them because they had decided to do the diets as well and that proved to be a tough decision as her meals were not really full of flavors and variety.
It was funny at first when her dad was caught by her mother, eating a cheeseburger in the car. Gong didn’t blame him and told them that she could keep doing it all by herself but they refused and her father apologized to her, although she didn’t really understand why. She just kept focused on her practice and on designing the best possible routines for every single event she was going to be performing in on the Olympic arena.
The girls was exceedingly happy when her parents came in one morning to her room, after practice, and told her they had bought the tickets and all the hotel arrangements had already being settled. She was going to be staying with the rest of the athletes but they would be close by to check on her and join her on every event. According to the rules, they couldn’t have meals with her on the days she was to be busy but they could go out and get to know the city on the days nothing was happening.
But Gong noticed something she didn’t like and which made her loose her focus from practicing. Her little sister Zhang, had begun to shut her out. It was very often that she could talk to her and play but now, when she tried, Gong was refused entrance to her room and on dinner Zhang wouldn’t even look at her, preferring to eat fast or at least fake she ate and leave early for her room. Zhang was eleven and had always been Gong’s best friend. She had been very supportive when some of the girls in the dance school or in the gymnastics practice were mean to her but now she was absent.
And when the date of the trip to Brazil came nearer, she realized the whole time there she was going to think of her sister, trying to see her up there in the seats with her parents. And she didn’t now if she could stand that, not being in right terms with the one person that had always supported her and from which she felt no pressure at all. It was the morning before leaving that her parents told her Zhang was not coming with them. They had decided to leave her with aunt Myrna, who wasn’t really their aunt but her uncle’s wife, who had three kids and a big home.
Gong was destroyed by the news and, for the first time in all of her life, she refused to practice, to dance, to do any of the things she normally did. She cried and begged Zhang to come out of her room and talk to her. But Zhang was not there. She had left the day before for Myrna’s house and she, the bad sister that she felt, had not even noticed. Her parents almost had to force her to eat, put on her clothes and hop in the car for the ride to the airport. Her trip there was awful and the one on the plane to Brazil was even worse, always thinking of Zhang and feeling worse by the minute.
When the plane finally landed. Gong insisted on calling her sister. She dialed the number herself and once she her aunt Myrna’s voice, she was relieved to know that Zhang was being very normal and even pleasant around her children. She asked Myrna to pass the phone to Zhang but then Myrna fell silent and it took her a bit to tell Gong that her sister had asked not to be interrupted while playing, especially not by them. She didn’t want to speak to any member of her family and Myrna didn’t want to make her feel worse.
Almost in a whisper, she told Gong that Zhang was feeling very bad because of the entire trip thing and that she thought her parents had failed by letting her out of everything, clearly putting Gong first and her second. Aunt Myrna asked Gong not to blame them or her sister for anything and just to focus on her events and comeback soon to get things sorted out. She then wished her good luck in Rio. Gong thanked her for her good wishes and her advice and hung up.
It got a bit better when she met the rest of the group and, the next day, when they did the big parade of nations. She was mesmerized by the thousands of people in the stadium and hoped her sister understood how much she wanted her there right now. The night of the parade, everyone went to bed early because the first week was always the most intense one. Gong had the following three days for practice and then it was time for the first event. Regrettably, time flew by and the moment came for her first performance.
She did great. With the sound of pop music roaring all over, she focused only on her moves and sharpness and she was surprised to take the first spot among her group. The following day, she was able to move on the semifinals groups and then on the grand finals. All the girls were very talented and she had seen their every move for the last few days. Some of them seemed even stricter with their dancing, almost looking mad every single moment. It was as if they had nothing else on their minds.
But she did. The final day, somehow, the thought of her sister took over everything and she didn’t even have a proper breakfast because of it. Suddenly she became worried because there was a feeling on her chest, a weird sensation that something felt wrong. Before leaving for the arena, she asked her parents to call her aunt and ask for Zhang. She thought only asking for here would be enough, not to be too pushy. She would have time to talk to her when they got back.
Her parents went to their seats and she went on to perform beautifully. She had only a few points of advantage over her nearest competitor but it was enough to win the gold medal. She was thrilled when receiving the flowers, the medal and a stuffed mascot. Everyone was taking her picture and she was simply the happiest girl in the world. She would go back home and show the medal to her sister and everything would be ok.
But it wasn’t. Her parents were nowhere to be found and when she did, she realized something awful had happened. Right enough, Myrna had told them that Zhang had committed suicide overnight. She had taken her to the hospital but here was nothing the doctors could do. When Gong heard this, she just collapsed. Her only friend in the world was gone, on the happiest day of her life.