Zmeskal has thought of getting into diving, following the lead of former gymnast Phoebe Mills, who is on a diving scholarship at the University of Miami. But when her 13-year-old sister, Melissa, suggested Kim try out for the neighborhood swim team, Kim demurred. "I told her I wouldn't be any good at it," she says. "My sister jumped down my throat and said, 'Is that the only reason you do anything? Because you're good at it?' I didn't even realize I thought that way until I said it."
Like all 16-year-olds, Zmeskal is going through a period of self-discovery. "I think I'm going to be a very picky person," she says. "I guess it's because, as gymnasts, we were always worried about what other people were saying about us. We were always being judged. I find myself judging people the same way. People who don't get good grades at school, it's like, Well, why don't you? I can't help it. I had a B recently on an English paper. I was so used to getting A's, I was really, really upset. My friend, who got a C, said to me, 'Are you going to cry? Because if you're going to cry, I'm going to slap you.' "
So Zmeskal is learning to live with her imperfections. But—and this is the wonderful thing about an Olympic-caliber athlete—she has not learned to stop striving for perfection. Nor, one suspects, will she ever. She points to the boxes of fan mail that clutter her family's living room. "I've learned you don't have to win first place to win," she says. "People have been so supportive, it's almost like they feel it's good that someone doesn't always win. This hasn't been bad for me at all, not winning a gold medal. It's almost better."