Managing expectations

Managing expectations
Lim Heem Wei, who was among seven gymnasts to perform at the National Day Parade, made Singapore history at her first Olympics in London in July 2012.

The gymnast is about to take off on a dangerous flight of exquisite invention.

She is rotating backwards at speed on the uneven bars, her body whipping through the air with the elegant freedom only gymnasts and dancers effortlessly manage.

Then she lets go of the bar.

And she is flying.

Even as she swings backwards, she somersaults forward. It is breathtaking and bewildering. Her body folds neatly in two, she flips over, and then her hands instinctively reach out again to find the safety of the bar.

If her timing is off, she will fall;

if her release is faulty, she will fall;

if her somersault isn't tidy, she will fall. There are mats below, but when a body lands awkwardly, even a tiny body, it hurts. It bruises the confidence. It niggles at the spirit.

And then you have to do it again, and again, till it is sculpted into the muscle memory and you can do it blindfolded in front of cameras and a crowd.

This move is the Jaeger and it is part of the gymnast's quest for perfect flight. Except this autumn Lim Heem Wei hasn't quite felt quite like a bird. In July 2012 she made Singapore history at her first Olympics in London, in August 2012 she took her first real break, in February she returned heavier, in May she increased her hours even while attending school. Everything felt foreign to the 24-year-old.

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