a focal point of admiration
you've never thought too long or too hard about your life in particular.
opportunities come to you in your youth, you don't necessarily go seeking them out. determination is a trait you get from your father; strong and hard-working. he teaches you what it means to be a man, a life not slathered in misogyny or judgment. you don't realize how ahead of the curve your parents are in everything about their lives (from the way they raise you to their acceptance of your lifestyle) until you visit elsewhere. until you see just how unkind the world can be to those that don't seem to fit in.
frankly, you've never not fit in, despite the fact you are a subdued child. well, in your youth you're not always subdued, but in your young adult life now, there's no real need for whatever pent-up anger you may have once had. it turns, instead, into a dogged determination to accomplish the things you want. to go for the gold, as it were, just as your last name would imply. who could have thought that just a simple boy from kazakhstan could turn into his nation's hero. that wasn't really your goal, but there is a sense of pride at knowing you are an inspiration.
if you can help even one person recognize their dreams, then its all worth it in the end.
you had a dream back then, innocent and unfettered. you're not really sure how it started, maybe watching olympics on tv while your mother and father talked amongst themselves. maybe it started when you first saw figure skating on the big screen, flawless and elegant, and wondered if maybe you could do that too. your interest in the sport piqued your parent's interests; in a world dominated by ice and snow, winter sports were the best kind.
acceptance comes easily in your family, despite the earlier prejudices of your grandparents that never wore on your parents. your father would have preferred something like hockey or skiing, but he takes your adolescent adoration of figure skating and doesn't hold you back. of an average wealth in your country, your parents begin trying to seek out a way for you to learn, but the best schools and coaches for skating were miles north and in russia. there was no way they were sending a five year-old boy to study in russia, so your dreams were put on hold, in full, until you were thirteen. a relative of your father's agreed to take you in with his own children as long as you did your work, went to school, and obeyed his rules.
from small-time ice skating rinks and amateur coaches, to the big leagues, your 13th birthday present is a ticket to russia to go learn how to skate with the pros.
a brief love affair
its not something most people know about you, frankly, most people don't know anything about you, but change is terrifying. you fear change, the unknown of it, the knowledge that you might not be strong enough to take it. you don't know if you'll survive the changes every time they happen. you can feel your chest tighten in panic, your shoulders tense, your color drain. people call it a panic attack, you'd rather not have a name for it.
going to russia you are bright-eyed and ready. you'd been skating on your own, lessons taught by a coach in kazakhstan that didn't really know all the basic rules as well as they thought. its enough to get you by, but russia is harsh. every part of it is harsh; from their rules in society to the way they handle things like this. the olympics are very important, and though you're not aiming for that, they teach every child like they'll one day aim for the brightest star. you start your training immediately when you get to your cousin's home. harsh mornings and long nights, you go to school int he interim, learn english for the day you'll eventually go to the states--because everyone is positive that one day you'll get there.
in the year you spend training in russia, you come to find out that you're really no match for these children. a somewhat accomplished skater in your homeland, you are nothing compared to them. you started too late, you didn't learn enough basics, your posture is awful. the coach is harsh and you are sent away from the junior classes, bumped back down to novice and forced to take ballet. you'll learn control, they say, but all you learn is to hate yourself even more for the things you can't do. it seems like everyone else, even in such a novice class, is better than you.
when you meet yuri plisetsky he looks like art in motion. the eventual fairy of russia, he moves with elegance and grace, a thin lithe form that seems not to hold him back. its a cold feeling of dread that settles in you when you realize you'll never be that. he is not unkind, not when he's younger at least, for when you meet him again before the grand prix final, he is all biting sarcasm and insults. you're not really too dissimilar, you begin to notice.
he is the first and only friend you make while you're training in russia.
america is also terrifying, but for a very different reason. you were strange in russia, but you are foreign and sometimes unwelcome in america. children are not nice, they poke fun at your accent, at your ability to misuse words. parents don't like the fact you're here, some kind of immigrant they say, probably here illegaly they claim. for a fourteen year-old boy, you couldn't quite wrap your head around the notion of prejudice like that. you spend more time, thankfully, in training than anything else, eventually getting private tutors and going through homeschooling with your new family abroad. the training is less harsh, but in some ways, you think you learn more--and better--while you're not under the harsh ridicule of russian perfectionists.
going to canada is your final stop on this road to entering the ice skating world and making a name for yourself; bringing glory to your homeland. its in canada that you meet their sweetheart, jean-jacques leroy. unlike yuri, he is not easy to get along with. he is loud and boisterous, he is exuberant, but you do have to admire his fire and the determination that's so much like your own. he's not as audacious as you expected. he is the second friend you make in a strange new world. he's still exasperating, what with the way he poses and proclaims himself 'king jj'; its too much for a child like you, so used to being seen and not heard, someone that can barely open himself up further than the hint of a smile at ridiculous antics.
you spend two years in canada and, in those two years, the friend you started to make drifts away from you. perhaps that's why you meet him with such animosity any time you see him again. you don't make many friends and unwittingly, you've lost both. it doesn't matter, you rationalize, because you're here to win, you're not here to make friends.
you do not go back to your home country with a medal.
you wonder how they can still call you their hero if you've nothing worthwhile to show for it. gold in qualifiers, bronze in an important event, and maybe the silver you took at the world figure skating championships is cause for celebration. after all, you stood on the podium, points below viktor nikforov himself. its not really as much of a victory as it should feel. you don't want silver, you don't want gold in a competition that doesn't mean anything, where the biggest names aren't fighting for glory.
you want to bring back gold, you want to be that hero they all think you to be. nevermind that your family is happy you're out there doing what you want to do, nevermind that they've never once thought you weren't their hero. nevermind that you've always been good enough for them, you've just never been good enough to live up to your own standards. you want so much more for yourself, but you get so little.
in the end, if there's one thing that you've learned through all of this is that sometimes determination is enough.
you need to stop comparing yourself to others, because you're not them. sometimes you think you've got more to prove. a simple boy from a simple country, a boy that failed at ballet, that was overshadowed by almost everyone he came up against. you've had to work your hardest to pave your own way, an underdog, a golden boy, the hero of kazakhstan. you're a hero to them no matter what you do, because you're representing the country, you're doing what other boys and girls might only dream of. you can show them that they can do it, you can show everyone that you're not someone to take lightly.
what you want to do, more than anything else, is show them that you can do something that they can't.
your performance in the grand prix final short program should be proof enough. a score that rockets you into second place. tradition and elegance, a piece that reminds you of home, of the glory of your country, and encourages you to do everything you can to show your dedication. that's what you have tenfold, in leaps and bounds, you have determination. and maybe a little bit of spite; spite to prove that you're not going to roll over and let the big boys take what they think they deserve. namely, jj, whose grin is ever-charming and smug because he'll never let you forget who taught you that quadruple salchow.
in the end, though, you don't rank. you're not on the podium with the others, though some part of you knew that you wouldn't be. you're not really important enough to be there, and jj with his self-importance beats you by more than twenty points--truthfully, after he destroyed himself during the short program, you're proud that he managed to shake off whatever had been bothering him. you knew you never really had much of a chance against them all, but you suppose being placed in fourth means something. it does mean something, doesn't it?
it doesn't mean anything in elysion, so maybe it doesn't mean anything at all.