Amanda Borden was our team captain and I knew that she had a strong faith. We would get together before the competition sometimes and she would say a little prayer and wish everyone luck. That was really nice. But actually during the competition, everyone was in their own zone and did whatever they needed to get them through.
Internally, I was constantly praying, because my warm-ups had not gone well. There's so much pressure, so before every routine I turned away and closed my eyes and went through my routine and asked the Lord to be with me and help me perform my best. Thankfully I did the best routines of my life on bars, beam and floor. I was very pleased with those events.
The final event in the team competition was the vault. How did you feel when you finished the event and learned that you had won the gold medal as a team?
To tell you the truth, I had mixed emotions. Of course, I had accomplished a lifelong goal. We were the first United States women's team to win the Olympic gold, and we're still the only US team to have done so. It was a major breakthrough for us, and we did it in front of 33,000 people chanting USA, USA in the Georgia Dome. The feeling, the tingling sensation throughout the body, was extraordinary.
In that sense, it was perfect, and there was extreme happiness. But there was also extreme sadness.
I had fallen on the vault. I was proud that I had done the three best routines of my life on the other events, but I was disappointed in myself for letting people down. I kept questioning why that had happened. I didn't realize this at the time, but they didn't need my score anymore. Even with my score, we would have won, which made me feel so much better when I found out. But at the time I was deeply disappointed in my last performance.
Jaycie Phelps, one of my teammates, pulled me aside when we were waiting in the back to march out to the podium to receive our medals. She asked me, "What are you crying for?" We had just achieved our lifelong goals, yet I was completely demoralized, completely disappointed in myself for that one error on the last event. You would think, when you have just won the gold, one single mistake wouldn't matter. But that's how much pressure I had on myself, the pressure to be perfect. It came from all different areas-from my coaches, from myself, from my father.
If there were ever a time when I needed a word of encouragement, it was then. Had Jaycie not said what she said, I don't know how I could have walked out to the podium. She told me that it was okay, that we had won and I should forget about it, and because of her kindness I was able to walk out to the podium and forget about it for a while. I was very thankful for Jaycie's kindness. She had made a mistake in compulsory beam, I remember, and she was able to let it go. That's important as an athlete. You win some, you lose some, and when you make mistakes, it's okay. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I had given my very best that day and contributed some of the highest scores on three events.
Once we were out on the podium, I looked at my medal and realized that this was what we had been working for all those years, through all the hard work and sacrifice and injuries and the striving for perfection. I reminded myself that I deserved it and so did the rest of my teammates. Then I felt that sense of pride and patriotism as our flag was being raised between the flags of Russia and Romania. Everyone in the Georgia Dome was singing our national anthem. As the flag was being raised, I thought to myself, Wow, we actually did it.