AUTHOR'S NOTE, PLEASE READ: Of Triple Jumps and Falling in Love has been discontinued and in its place, I offer this one. Also, if you've logged in and had reviewed the first six chapters of Of Triple Jumps and Falling in Love, I don't think you can review again for those chapters of this story. But I welcome "anonymous" not-logged in reviews if you'd like to post them! —Thanks!
I Can Hear the Sea
THE POWER OF THE DREAM
"Deep within each heart, there lies a magic spark that lights the fire of our imagination."
"It was not to win an Olympic gold medal, but it was because skating was so much fun and because I thought Michelle Kwan was so beautiful; I wanted to be like her."
—South Korean Olympic Champion, Yuna Kim, on why she first started skating
This is how it began.
For as long as she could remember, Olympic fever had always swept through the country during either Olympic Games. In the Ryū household, it was pretty much inevitable.
Tenten and her family lived for all the cheesy fluff-pieces of all the top athletes and underdogs by whatever TV network was airing the Olympics, as well as the heated competitions. Tenten always rooted for the athletes from Fire Country, and occasionally the ones from Tea Country where her mother was from.
Her father always loved watching the objective competitions, like speed skating during the Winter Games and track and swimming in the Summer Games. There was really nothing like the anticipation and the intensity, nothing like screaming at the top of your lungs for your favorite athletes, hoping and praying they'd cross the finish line first (or second or third, but definitely first).
But as much as Tenten loved the timed sports, what appealed to her the most were the subjective sports like artistic and rhythmic gymnastics and figure skating. She preferred the clean lines and elegance of the more fluid gymnasts and skaters, her young mind no doubt already influenced by her balletic mother. As much as she loved watching the tricks and skills of artistic gymnasts, the choreography or lack thereof on the different apparatuses left her wanting more. Rhythmic gymnastics was nice, but could get boring even with flashy costumes and a variety of props (and no one from Fire Country ever qualified for rhythmic gymnastics anyway, which was actually kind of odd).
Skating, however, was another story.
The very first Olympic competition she could remember watching live on television was the ladies' figure skating short program when she was five. It had been particularly memorable: leading up to the Olympics, the media had been hyping up the growing rivalry between Fire Country's own Mitarashi Anko and Sound Country's Yakushi Kabuko.
Tenten had been transfixed by Anko's steely determination and ornate costume coupled with her soulful quality. The two skaters had been neck and neck for the top prize, with Anko barely hanging onto first after the short program. But after a small mistake on the triple salchow in the long program, millions of viewers had been left disappointed as the soulless skater from Sound Country reigned supreme. At the time, little Tenten had been confused and heartbroken as to why the lady with the pretty eyes from Konoha did not capture the gold over that creepy-looking one from Oto, but regardless, Anko had become Tenten's very first figure skating idol.
And who could forget the quintessential rivalry between the alluring Terumi Mei and the enchanting Okawa Konan, one that had inspired Anko when she was a little girl herself?
Tenten's curiosity had been piqued after watching one of the made-for-TV fluff specials that the network created to generate the nostalgia for the Games of old and new interest for younger audiences. The old footage, coupled with effectively-timed music successfully captured Tenten's interest in the famed rivalry, one that had been even more intense than that between Anko and Kabuko.
When Tenten had declared that she absolutely had to see what had been "so epic" about the two women, her mother had whipped out one of her old grainy videotapes and through these, Tenten had been able to grasp the concept of "poetry in motion".
Both women were quite different: Terumi Mei had been charismatic, exuding a fiery kind of confidence that could awaken the most tired of souls. Okawa Konan, on the other hand, had been ethereal, almost untouchable with her clean lines and cool beauty. Mei's style was passionate, captivating audiences with her alluring beauty and wild jumps; Konan entranced them with her grace, fluidity, and her stunning spins. Terumi Mei ultimately won Olympic Gold then, but Okawa Konan had become a champion in her own right an Olympic cycle later in another hyped-up rivalry against Fire Country's Kato Shizune who had finished a disappointing third.
But above all else?
It was Senjuu Tsunade who had truly inspired Tenten to be a skater.
Before Tenten was even a thought, Tsunade exuded such charisma both on- and off-ice that could never be taught. With her legendary beauty and unparalleled artistry, she steadily dominated the sport for more than a decade. Though her technical prowess had been juvenile and basic compared to that of present skaters, her artistic ability had been far ahead her time. She was well-known for her musicality, poise and form, and the way she took audiences on a journey through her performances. "A dominant fixture by which all others are measured," a famous sports journalist had said about her.* All three of her Olympic gold-medal-winning long programs, among many others, had had achieved and iconic statuses. Not even Terumi Mei had been able to match up to Tsunade, as the then-teenage skater had been quite obviously defeated on Tsunade's quest for a third Olympic gold (A string of 5.9s and 6.0s for Tsunade, if Tenten remembered correctly).
But what endeared Tsunade to Tenten the most was not her drive to be the best, but her need to put the audience first, giving them the best performance possible. As far as Tsunade had been concerned, the judges were secondary. So as she grew up, Tenten's focus on being the best skater of her generation was born, for the most part, from her aspiration to be as captivating, remembered, and loved as her idol had been.
That is how, on the morning of her sixth birthday, Tenten opened her parents' gift and found herself faced with a ruby-red pair of skates.
Edited: 05 July 2013.
Note: Neji will be present beginning next chapter.
*The quote "A dominant fixture by which all others are measured" (as well as the summary for this) is an actual one made by the legendary sportscaster Jim McKay about former figure skater Michelle Kwan in a tribute video to her by, I believe, the U.S. Figure Skating Association (USFSA) in 2006.
Also, for the sake of this story, Kabuto is female. Though, s/he probably won't be making an appearance anytime soon, if ever.
Song/Theme: "The Power of the Dream" by Celine Dion (performed at the Opening Ceremonies of the 1996 Olympic Games)