MORE THAN A DREAM
by Macy Feahnin
I looked around the gym and saw bodies flipping everywhere. I had shown up a few minutes early, just for this. Eleanora Keion, one of the subjects of my interview, is incredibly modest about her spectacular talents and would never have allowed me to watch her for fear of "showing off." My eyes skimmed over at least a dozen gymnasts before I spotted her. She was on the uneven bars, doing some sort of complex and impossibly difficult combination. Not one hesitation, not one mistake. She flew through the air and was solid all the way through. It almost made me sad, just watching her. Why would someone with that much talent quit her sport?
I searched again, this time for Helaena Sherwood. She is the golden child now. On floor in her neon green leotard, she looks just as solid as Eleanora does on the bars. Such perfection should be illegal.
The pair, who have both medaled in the Olympics and numerous other competitions, are not just teammates. They are best friends. You can tell in the way the walk close together off of the mats, Helaena motioning with her hands to show Eleanora where she should alter her routine. They come over and sit on the bleachers with me to start our interview, a peek into the life of two of the world's best athletes.
Macy Feahnin: Hello, ladies. Looks like you were working hard out there.
Helaena Sherwood: We have to, Macy. In our sport, every half-point counts, and you have to make sure you earn the ones you get.
Feahnin: I understand that that's why you are doing your normal workouts, but what about you, Eleanora? Why are you working out when you recently announced that you would no longer be doing competitive gymnastics?
Eleanora Keion: During the summer, every day from four to eight, the gym hosts and open gym session so that anyone can practice, whether they're currently taking classes or not.
Feahnin: That explains the how, but not the why. Did you ever really plan on quitting gymnastics, or are you just biding your time to come back as a wild card?
Keion: I never quit gymnastics. That would be like quitting at life, for me. I quit competition. I still work out, and I'm going to continue advancing my skills. Like today, Helaena promised me a pair of hot pink Uggs if I could add a rotation to my dismount. [turns to Helaena] You owe me a pair of shoes, by the way.
Sherwood: [chuckles] Whatever. You'll get them soon enough.
Feahnin: You two seem to get along pretty well. Did you become friends after meeting at the gym?
Sherwood: Actually, no. We met at preschool when I taught Ellie here how to do a back handspring.
Feahnin: So, you pretty much got her started in gymnastics.
Sherwood: Yeah, and she got me started in dance.
Feahnin: But haven't you each now quit the activity that the other got you started in?
Keion: Yeah, but nobody's holding a grudge or anything. Now that we're getting older and getting more involved in the professional levels of our sports, it's more important to focus on one major thing.
Sherwood: Besides, it's not like I'll never dance again or she'll never do gymnastics again. It's just a matter of which we'd rather do the majority of the time.
Feahnin: Of course, neither of you really needs to do this professionally. Don't you come from very affluent families?
Keion: I know some people just take their riches for granted, but I know that I don't want to die having been known for nothing more than my money— money that I didn't even earn.
Sherwood: Yeah. I mean, I'm not going to turn down a trust fund, but I'm not going to waste my life away doing nothing but partying on money that was given to me.
Feahnin: That's perfectly understandable, even though many socialites wouldn't agree with you. So, have you embraced these ideals in order to be role models?
Sherwood: Oh, no. I don't call myself a role model. Some of the things I do are good, I guess, but no one should be looking up to me like that. I'm just a normal person, making it as best as I can. I'm not perfect.
Feahnin: But, if you do so much good, why don't you want to be a role model?
Keion: You don't need to wait until the day you get caught doing something bad to say that you don't want to be a role model. I'm not saying me and Helaena are into illicit stuff, but if I do mess up, I don't want to destroy some child's opinion of the world.
Feahnin: This is especially good since you, Eleanora, are somewhat of a controversial figure in the athletic world. What of the rumors that you use steroids and other performance-enhancing substances?
Keion: They are just what you called them: rumors, completely unfounded in truth. Everyone who matters knows that I would never use crap like that.
Sherwood: I don't even know why people would say that about Ellie. She works just as hard as the rest of us, and pushes herself like you wouldn't believe.
Keion: Thanks, Hels.
Sherwood: No problem.
Feahnin: You two seem pretty together on everything. Do you ever have disagreements?
Sherwood: Not really, no. I don't think so. We're really close. We grew up together, so we've got most of the fighting out already.
Keion: We did fight once, though, when Helaena got mad at me for keeping a secret from her. It was alright when she came home to a surprise party on her fifteenth birthday, though.
Feahnin: [laughs] So, no real fights, then? Not even over boys?
Keion: We'd be pretty pathetic to be this close and bicker over boys.
Sherwood: Yeah. Besides, when you're this busy, who has time to date?
Feahnin: Very true, ladies. So, tell me about things you do, other than gymnastics and ballet.
Keion: Um, well, I'm a dancer with El Palacio Corps Royale, the dance company of New Sydney, but I also have an agent who schedules me to dance in commercials and local concerts. Also, I do dance videos and sometimes international work, depending on the arrangement of my prior engagements.
Sherwood: Wow, Ellie. Thanks a lot.
Sherwood: You make me sound horrible. I just help out around my mom's fitness center. You know, and model some, and I teach a few classes here at the gym.
Keion: Oh, yeah. I teach a few classes at the dance studio.
Feahnin: Wow. You girls' parents must be very proud of you.
Keion: Yeah, my mom is really proud of me, and totally supportive.
Feahnin: What about your father? You never mention him in interviews.
Keion: He died when I was really young, so I've got no idea what he's like.
Feahnin: I'm so terribly sorry. What about you, Helaena?
Sherwood: My dad's dead, too. Since I was seven. But my mom is very supportive. Of both me and Helaena, actually.
Keion: Speaking of your mom, when is she making more cookies?
Sherwood: She can make some tonight, I guess. I don't think she has any classes to teach.
Feahnin: What kind of classes does your mother teach, Helaena?
Sherwood: Fitness classes. She used to be a gymnast, but now she just owns a fitness center and teaches classes and stuff. Sometimes I help out, but it's mostly her.
Feahnin: What does your mom do, Eleanora?
Keion: She's in business and corporation management. Oh, hey. What time is it?
Feahnin: It is seven thirty-three.
Keion: Oh, okay. Look, I don't mean to be nosy, but if that's your parking stub, your time's about to run out. Do you want me to go put some money on it for you?
Feahnin: Oh, no. I can run and do it.
Keion: No, let me. Really. It's no problem.
Feahnin: Oh, okay. Just click the lock button once so the lights will blink.
Keion: Okay. Be back in a flash.
Feahnin: Is she always like that?
Sherwood: Really nice and sweet? Yeah, most of the time. She does have her moments, but so does everyone else.
Feahnin: Even you? You seem very laidback.
Sherwood: I try. When you have so much to do every day and you're just always running, you learn to stop caring so much about the little stuff and focus on what really matters.
Feahnin: That's very wise. Do you also follow that philosophy during competitions? I seem to remember you, at one point during the Olympics trials, crying and refusing to compete when someone stole your headband. You would not leave your seat until it was returned, even though your mother could be seen offering you an alternative headband.
Sherwood: It's all a matter of what you do and don't know. People knew that I was refusing to go. What they didn't know is that the headband that had been stolen was the diamond-encrusted headband that was the last thing my dad gave me before he died. I wear it every time I compete.
Feahnin: So, since you did compete, would I be correct in assuming that the headband was returned?
Sherwood: Yeah. I didn't press charges or anything, either. I was just glad to have it back.
Feahnin: Yes, that is a very good thing. Do you miss your father a lot?
Sherwood: Of course. My dad was my hero; he always will be. I was pretty set on never competing, or even leaving my room, again when he died. But Ellie pretty much beat me into shape. She's always been there for me, no matter what.
Keion: [sneaking up behind Helaena] Why don't you compliment me like that when I'm around?
Sherwood: Shut up. I do.
Keion: Whatever. Hey, I called your mom. Cookies at eight-thirty.
Feahnin: If you guys are planning on getting home in time for those cookies, we should probably finish up here. Thank you for giving me some of your time.
Sherwood: No problem. Thanks for not being mean, like some interviewers are.
Keion: If you ever want to talk to us again, just call someone. I'd gladly interview for you again.
Feahnin: Thank you so much.
As they walked toward the locker room doors, I closed my notebook and turned off the tape recorder. I had expected to, at some point during the interview, find something that would make them less perfect and more— human. But there is nothing to dissect here. The perfection is not a façade or an act. They truly are the most kind and modest people that I've ever met. They love what they're doing and are so determined that you can sense it from a mile away. Of all the people that I've interviewed, these two teenagers are the most sure of themselves. They're going somewhere in life, and they know it. I'm just proud to have been able to talk to them during their swift journey upward. This is Macy Feahnin, reporting for Bloch Magazine.