We are now coming in to land at London Heathrow. The local time is 18:00 and the temperature is 13 degrees. Thank you for flying with British Airways, we hope you had a pleasant flight!
"Oh my God! We've arrived, we're actually here. The Olympics!" Lauren Tanner bounced restlessly in her seat and strained over her team mate Colleen to peer out through the small aeroplane windows. The six members of the US women's gymnastics team looked at each other with a mixture of awe, fear and excitement. The event they had been training for their entire lives was about to begin.
_ Chapter Break _
Sasha Belov sighed, sat up in bed and turned on the light. It was useless to try and sleep, his head was spinning with thoughts of his gymnasts and the work to be done over the next few days. The US women's team had a lot to prove; dubbed, on various occasions, the 'US Dream Team', 'America's Brightest Stars' and 'The Pride of the Nation', the pressure was most definitely on. It wasn't that Sasha didn't have faith in his girls, he did … but he also had his reservations. Reaching for his file, for what seemed like the millionth time, he studied his six athletes.
Colleen Evans was the oldest girl on the team and, at 20, the only girl to have competed at the Olympics before. A steady all rounder, she was what Sasha called a work horse; reliable but unexciting. Still, with the emotional turmoil and conflict that seemed to follow the rest of his team around, he was very glad he had her.
Jordan Randall was something of an unknown quantity. Sasha knew her by reputation but had met the girl for the first time six weeks previously, when the final team had been released. There was no doubt in Sasha's mind that she was a phenomenal gymnast but, as yet, he felt she did not trust him. Of course he understood why the girl would have difficulty in trusting a strange, male coach but it didn't make it any easier for him to accept.
Then there were his Rock girls. As deeply proud as he was of the three of them or making the team together he knew that Lauren Tanner had made it by the skin of her teeth. Her beam skills were among the best in the world but Sasha wasn't convinced she had the depth and range he needed to get the US to team Gold. He was also wary of both her heart condition and her volatile temperament. Kaylie Cruz was another concern. She was potentially the best gymnast in the country but her ability to handle stress was questionable at best. Kaylie had been badly rattled by the drugs test scandal at the Olympic trials. She was eating poorly and Sasha was far from sure that she could keep herself healthy enough to compete.
A smile of relief touched Sasha's face as he turned to his notes on the third Rock gymnast and US team captain, Payson Keeler. Payson was on the up, full of new found confidence in herself and with new, impressive routines. Sasha had always had a soft spot for Payson and he believed that, if anyone could, she could lead this team to victory.
Finally there was his alternate, Wendy Capshaw. On ability Wendy ranked above both Lauren and Colleen but, after trying to discredit Kaylie Cruz at the Olympic Training Centre, she was lucky to be here at all. Only her young age, undeniable talent and rich parents had got her the alternate spot. Sasha frowned as he looked at the photo of the grinning teenager. Today had been Wendy's 16th birthday but not one of the other girls had offered their congratulations – and Sasha couldn't blame them.
Sasha's watch beeped and he glanced down at it. 4am. Three hours until he had to put these girls through their paces in the practice gym. With a groan he put his file down and flicked off the light again. Perfect they were not but these were the girls he had and he had to believe they could do this.
_ Chapter Break _
The shrill beeping of Payson's alarm clock dragged her into consciousness. Slowly she opened her eyes and looked around her, confused as to her whereabouts. Within moments however, realisation kicked in and she leapt out of bed, dancing out into the lounge-kitchen-dining area the six girls shared and shouting 'Rise and shine ladies, we're in London and it's 2012'.
Payson was followed a few minutes later by a sleepy looking Lauren and a sullen Wendy. Colleen walked through the room with a smile and headed for the shower. A note from Kaylie told the girls that her and Jordan had gone for a run.
'Who's for pancakes?' asked Payson, the natural mother in her wanting to look after 'her' girls both on and off the mats. Twenty minutes later the dining room was full of happy chatter as the girls ate, speculating about the day in front of them.
'Morning!' Jordan and Kaylie pushed open the door of the apartment and came in, flushed and breathless from their run. 'Plenty more pancakes on the side' stated Lauren with her mouth full. 'Thanks, we ate before we ran,' answered Kailey casually. 'I'm going to grab a shower before we have to go.' She moved off into her room leaving Jordan staring awkwardly after her.
'Jordan?' questioned Payson, hesitantly.
'We didn't' said Jordan simply and the light faded from Payson's eyes as she looked at the firmly closed door of her best friends' room. D