— It was a sunny August afternoon in Atlanta, and Katie Nettles was in a celebratory mood.
After all, she was a gold medalist in gymnastics at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Her performance on Sunday in the 200 freestyle final gave the United States its first medal of the Games, and she was poised to become the first American gymnast to win four gold medals in the same event since 1980.
It was Nettls’ fourth consecutive Olympic title, and it had been a long time coming.
“It was the best thing that could have happened,” Nettes said after her gold medal.
“I feel like it was an unbelievable moment.
It feels like it’s been a lifetime coming.”
For Netts, who was just 14 years old when she first won her first Olympic title in 2008, the most special moment of her career was coming just three years after her first victory in the Olympics.
She had been competing against the best gymnasts around the world and was struggling with the psychological trauma of a broken ankle.
She came to Atlanta to work on her own injury, a situation that forced her to leave her home in the Washington suburbs and spend her days at her gymnastics coach’s house.
“This was our world,” Nelles said.
“You could hear the screams from the other gymnasts.
We had to put on a good show for the world.”
That night, Nettuses and her family went to the hotel bar and ordered a drink.
Then they watched as the national anthem played.
“The moment when I realized we were here and not in the movies, that was like a dream,” Nelts said.
She was on the floor in the pool, looking up at the ceiling, when she noticed that the other two competitors were missing.
She immediately went into her locker and called her mom.
“Mom, I have a sprained ankle,” Nels said she told her.
Nells told her to go to the hospital and get checked out.
“There was nothing that was going to happen to me, so I had to go in there and make a decision,” Nells said.
The first thing Nellus did was get to her knees and stand up.
She put on her shoes and then grabbed a towel to cover her injured ankle.
“We went through this process of having to figure out how to do the things we do well,” Nelling said.
For Nellies, this was a new experience for her and her teammates.
“If I had not had that ankle in 2008 I wouldn’t be able to compete in the games,” Neller said.
But it wasn’t just a question of being able to walk in the gymnastics ring.
She would have to overcome her fear of heights and how much pressure she put on herself in order to compete.
Nettns was also in the process of getting her prosthetic leg, which she got when she was about six months pregnant, repaired.
That prosthetic left her with an injury that kept her from running.
Nels’ goal was to get her prosthesis to her knee and then her ankle by the time the Games started.
It wasn’t easy.
“All you see is this beautiful picture of me running on a bike,” Nellen said.
Neller’s mom, Janice Nellers, said she would never have expected to see her daughter so close to her goal.
“At the end of the day, it was very much an emotional roller coaster ride for her,” Janice said.
When the Olympic Games ended, Nellys was one of the first gymnasts to receive a medal from the USA.
“She had so much of her life planned out,” Nelle said.
By the time she was ready to return home, her teammates were just starting to get used to her absence.
Nelson, Nelle and their mother had been to every Olympics and knew what it was like to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
But the experience wasn’t the same.
The day after Nellns’ win, Nels went to her house to see the Olympic parade.
“When I first got there, I thought, this is my life,” Nelson said.
They started a tradition where each of the girls went through the parade together, and the girls started wearing pink ribbons for the first time ever.
Then the girls would go back to their houses and work on their gymnastics.
“One of the things that we’re really proud of is how hard she worked on that,” Janie said.
It’s an accomplishment that Nellles and her gymnasts have been waiting for.
For the past year, Nelson has worked with an athletic trainer, a physical therapist and a physiotherapist, all of whom have helped her learn how to control her injuries.
For many gymnasts, the transition from one