30 Days A pint-size athlete goes for gold
By Ellen McGirt; Courtney McCool

(MONEY Magazine) – Courtney McCool

AGE 16 HOMETOWN Lee's Summit, Mo.

WHAT SHE DID Entered the final stretch of her eight-year quest to compete this summer on the U.S. Women's Olympic Gymnastics Team. Oh, and she got her driver's license too.

MY BIRTHDAY CAR! My mom got me a '92 Corolla. I can drive myself to the gym, so life is easier for everyone. (Says Mom, Linda McCool, a teacher: "It was well worth the $1,500--only $40 more a month for insurance. I shopped around. Courtney needs a pillow to see over the steering wheel.")

MY SCHEDULE: Monday through Friday, up at six; school at 7:30. I go for five periods, leave at 12:15. Home and make lunch. At the gym from one to 7:30. Saturday, gym from eight to one. Sunday, off. (Says Mom: "I had to put a $1,000 deposit on the hotel in Greece in case Courtney makes it. I want to take her sister too--it could cost $10,000.")

LAST WEEK my friend had knee surgery--she tore a knee ligament after landing a double twist. The medicine made her sick. She's in our prayers.

SUNDAY! Spent at my grandma's--I love her so much. She's a riot. My cousins came, we played canasta, mowed the lawn and just had fun.

MOM TOLD ME no new leotards. My gym is $400 a month, and I needed two new pairs of grips, $70. She has to pay to send me to the championships.

EVERY MORNING I have egg whites and Mini-Wheats. Lunch is meat and veggies. At night all I have is a yogurt smoothie; I don't need the energy. (Says Mom: "My friend helped me book a cheap flight to Courtney's championship meet--$141. I can't take time off, so I'll fly in Saturday, out Sunday. Can't afford a hotel. I'll sleep at the airport.")

TODAY IT WAS DIFFICULT to do the bars after the floor work and 10 beam routines. I'm not learning any new skills, just making my routines perfect. I love the beam; my vault has really improved.

OH NO! It took $30 to fill up my car! Mom showed me where the filters are and how to change the oil.

REAL OLYMPIC JUDGES come to the mock meet coming up. Coaches say I'm ready. (Mom: "Parents of the top athletes must pay the judges' expenses.")

SUNDAY! Saw my other grandma, and my dad came by. We watched Everybody Loves Raymond. Came home, did homework and laundry--my mom hung up my leos to dry so I could sleep.

THE MOCK MEET. Competitive season starts. I have to be majorly mentally strong. I get so much support from my family. I always pray to God to help me get through. --AS TOLD TO ELLEN McGIRT

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