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My Story: The Day I Met Nadia
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The following "My Story" appeared in the July/August 2015 issue of IG. See below on how to submit your own story.


By Diana Lundell

My fingers trembled and my voice quaked. I babbled about my childhood, how she’d been my hero. The IG poster capturing the ending pose of her floor exercise had hung taped to my bedroom ceiling for years, the last thing I’d see before turning out the light.

When Nadia and Bart walked into that Irish Pub for lunch between the Women’s Junior and Senior All-Around Finals at the 2013 P&G Championships, history caught in my throat. Nadia! I mean, are you kidding me?

I have never been an autograph seeker. I am a shy introvert, and have deliberately missed more than one opportunity to meet celebrities. But this was Nadia!

Besides, what did I have to offer Nadia that she hadn’t heard a million times before? I didn’t want to be one of those sycophants who fawn all over her, throw their arms around her like they’ve known her for years to take a selfie to post to Instagram or Facebook.

Even today, Nadia is still revered around the world. She is well-traveled, and has seen people and places I can only imagine; mingled with heads of states and rulers; has ridden in parades; and has commentated gymnastics events. Not to mention, she’s beautiful! She looked incredible that afternoon in her skinny jeans and stilettos, still pencil-thin, put-together, and so fit … middle-aged women (like me!) would give everything to look that good. Talk about intimidating!

Then there was me, not so thin anymore, by no means fit, not a coach or judge, and had not even contributed much—shock—to the sport of gymnastics. I became antsy in the booth, struggling with my inclination to run out the back. Did I dare approach her and tell her how much I’ve always wanted to meet her? How it had been my dream? But come on, I’m a grown woman with my gymnastics days long behind me.

My husband was speaking to me but I wasn’t listening. Our orders came but I had lost my appetite in all the excitement of observing one fan after another approach Nadia for autographs or photos. Mothers wielded cameras or dug in their purses for their smartphones for the photo opportunities of a lifetime—their little gymnasts with Nadia. A gamer, Nadia flashed her polished smile and posed politely with each of them. But children were one thing—I was an adult—and not so far off her age. I felt like an old fool.

When Nadia’s group chose to sit in the booth in front of us, I knew I would not be able to walk past without stopping. I summoned my courage and mental fortitude but lost control of my tongue.

She’d accepted her medals as if winning was completely natural, to be expected. I could never do that—remain poised, trained and ready for the world. I was nervous just speaking to her. Abruptly, I stopped mid-sentence to get control, then said that they should be able to order their food in peace. “Just forget you saw me.”

But Nadia was gracious. Her eyebrows drew together and she replied, “Don’t you want an autograph?”

“No, I don’t want to bother you,” I said, starting back toward our table.

“But wouldn’t you like to take a picture with me?”

I said, “Sorry, no camera.”

“What about your phone?”

Well, duh, I thought. I seized my smartphone out of my purse, embarrassed to have forgotten about it. She stared at me, flummoxed.

Bart kindly offered to take the photo so my husband could get in it too. Nadia sandwiched between us, arms lightly around us as if we were old friends.

He took two. Both were out of focus.

Diana Lundell lives in Eagan, Minn., and each year she and her husband travel to the P&G Championships.

What's YOUR story? Share your personal gymnastics experiences in IG. Email your story (500-700 words), along with high resolution JPEGs, to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Subject line: My Story.

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