Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The Games of the XXVII Olympiad. September 15 through October 1, 2000. The last Olympic Games of the twentieth century. If the fourteen athletes from North Dakota didn't win a single medal, their presence in such numbers was already a victory.
They debated whether to try to walk as a group in the Opening Ceremony but decided against it. They looked to Tim as their unquestioned leader, and he was certainly tempted to have them enter as a group. But Tim and I (did you seriously think I was going to let anyone else write this episode?) had discussed the question and decided that it was very important that we not be seen as a clique–thinking that we were something special. If the press wanted to make a big deal of fourteen athletes from little North Dakota, that was fine. But we wanted to just be fourteen members of the United States Olympic Team. Tim declined to carry the flag, and suggested that the honor go to Willie. But Willie declined, saying that he wanted to walk with his father. Ultimately the honor went to Cliff Meidl, a kayaker who fourteen years before had almost lost his legs to electrical burns and was now competing in his second Olympics.
Tim and I walked in, all smiles, and holding each other's hands so tight that nothing could (or did) separate them. It was incredible to think that this had happened twice before, in Mexico City and Munich, thirty-two and twenty-eight years before. And never in my wildest dreams of that era did I ever expect to again march in an Olympic Opening Ceremony. I was fifty-nine years old, and in amazingly good health. Tim swears I look just the same, and I tell him that as well, but we both know better. (I know, Gang members never lie to each other, but Tim and I have an unspoken agreement in this case.) I have just one thing to add on the question of age: There are a half dozen or so sailors that dismissed Tim and me, especially me, out of hand when we began our sailing quest. They spent September of 2000 watching the Olympic games on American television while we were in Sydney. (I know, that was a low blow, just the kind of thing that we tried to knock out of the young athletes we coached and supported. But I got really tired of being dismissed out of hand because "nobody your age can possibly sail a 49er in the Olympics.")
Where do I start? The Aussies (I learned they liked the term) put on quite a show. More than 12,000 performers, horses to sea creatures, aborigines to English prisoners, stockmen to athletes, all were represented. The Sydney Symphony provided the music–although it was learned later that it had all been prerecorded, and the live performance was mimed! In fact, some of the music had been prerecorded by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra! They were worried that high winds or rain might ruin a live performance. The only live music in the Ceremony was the massed band of 1000 Australians joined by 1000 foreign musicians. Hey, Tim and I only came for the athletes' march in. It was our third time, and believe me it only gets better. As we marched through huge Stadium Australia, seating more than 100,000, I squeezed Tim's hand and said, "It almost makes me want to keep sailing another four years."
"Me, too, but I think sanity will return in a few weeks."
We didn't let go of hands until we'd found our seats and several additional minutes had passed. When Willie noticed that I had a program and not Tim's hand in my left hand he nudged me and said, "I won the bet. My father bet that you'd let go of each other's hands when you sat down. I said you'd go longer."
Billy, on the other side of Willie, grinned, and said, "I owe him ten bucks, but luckily it's only Australian funny money."
A quick aside: it was clear from the audience reaction that Australians liked "Waltzing Matilda" much more than their official anthem, "Advance Australia Fair."
I need to give you a little run-down of the Dakotans who were in our group of Olympians. You, of course, know Tim and me, and Billy and Willie, but there were ten more: five Cavers, three Marauders, and two from the UND aquatics program. None of these were members of the Gang, though some were destined to be, and none were COGs. As we considered who might room with whom, both in the hotel and later in the Olympic Village, the question of sex (and I don't mean simply gender) couldn't be avoided. The Cavers, of course, had their own sexual rules, as did the Mauraders. Johnny and Nan, from the UND aquatics program, had never been in an environment similar to that of the Gang, Cave, or Marauders. With that background Tim, Billy, Marty, and I talked about room arrangements. It was clear that Tim and I would share, as would Billy and Willie, except that Tim would move in with Willie as soon as sailing was over and stay there until their diving together was finished. For the rest, the stuffy attitude of the IOC–boys roomed with boys, girls with girls–meant we had a little problem–an odd number of both girls and boys. Keeping Cavers with Cavers and Marauders with Marauders made sense, but would leave Johnny and Nan, who knew few people in the group, fending for themselves at their first Olympics. Billy didn't think that was a good idea for his UND divers.
The problem was solved by generous offers from Dylan and Lorrie, both of whom had medaled at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. They'd kept up with other gymnasts from the Atlanta Olympics and found roommates among their Atlanta-made friends: Dylan with a Canadian and Lorrie with another American–from California. That enabled us to come up with pretty sensible pairings: Jinx and JoJo, the two Marauder men were together. That left Tyler and Johnny. Tyler assured us that he was fine with Johnny, and assured us that he wouldn't push any unwanted sex on him. Johnny didn't hear that conversation, and was glad to have a North Dakotan roommate.
For the women, putting Julia and Betts, our two gymnasts, together made sense. That left Als and Nan. Tim warned Nan that Als was a "pretty strong personality" and Nan assured Tim that she could hold her own. Tim was explicit: "You may get a sexual invitation from Als. You must feel completely comfortable turning it down."
"Would it be OK to accept it?"
"That's between you and Als."
We got up the morning after the Opening Ceremony, had a very nice breakfast at the hotel buffet which was open for all guests during breakfast hours, but only for Fred's guests the rest of the day. Dylan and Tyler had to head off for the men's gymnastics qualifying rounds, and most of the rest of us headed there to watch. At the end of the day both would be on the USA men's team in the team competition, Dylan would have qualified on the rings and for the individual all-around, and Tyler on the vault. They were very happy.
The next morning Johnny swam the 200 meter backstroke in his qualifying heat. But his story really begins a few days before. Tyler's experience in the Cave had convinced him that, for many people–not all, he would admit–athletic success begins the night before, or many nights before. So as soon as he knew that he'd be rooming with Johnny in the Olympic Village he asked Johnny to eat dinner with him at Fred's hotel buffet. It was three days before they'd move to the Village, but he knew that Johnny's first race would be the first day of competition, and if he was successful his second race would be the same day and his third and last race the next day. Tyler decided that a gradual approach had no place in that calendar.
He led Johnny to a table off in a corner of the room where they could have a private conversation. He opened the conversation by saying, "I don't know you as well as I'd like, since you're a swimmer and I'm a gymnast, and we haunt very different venues on campus. Since you've graduated, we aren't going to have a chance to get to know each other better after our time in Sydney. However, the next few days in Sydney are going to be very important ones for your future. Billy says you have an outside chance of getting a medal, and Billy, Tim, me, all of us want to help you accomplish that if it's at all possible."
"That's really appreciated, and the care and hospitality I'm getting from Fred and all of you guys has been pretty incredible. I'm not really sure why I'm included."
"You're a student at UND, a swimmer coached by Billy, and a North Dakotan. Billy thinks highly of you in two ways: first, he thinks you're a truly nice guy, and second he thinks you're a good diver. That's all it takes to be taken under Fred's wing. He's been doing this since Tim, Charlie, Hal, Jim, and Billy went to the Mexico City Olympics."
"What year was that?"
"My God, has it been that long since Tim and Charlie began their Olympic careers?"
"Yes, and Billy began the same year."
"OK, I really appreciate everything that's been done for me getting ready for Sydney, and here in Sydney. I especially appreciate your being willing to be my roommate. I didn't like the idea of rooming with a stranger."
"I don't blame you for that. But I'm looking forward to our being roommates; it wasn't just a matter of being willing."
"Thanks, Tyler. But I think you have something more on your mind. Nothing we've said so far needed to be said way over here in this private corner, which I notice you selected very deliberately."
"Billy said you weren't dumb. Yes, there is more. If your diving was in the second week of competition, then this subject could be broached slowly, and with a little finesse. But life, and the Olympic schedule, doesn't give us a lot of time."
"Time for what?"
"First, I need to tell you that I'm going to share some very confidential information with you, and I need your word that it won't be shared, except with those I tell you you can share with."
"You have my word. I wouldn't think of breaking a confidence."
"I hated to have to ask it in that way, but I need to be very clear about it. OK, here goes. What you don't know about the group that you see here, at least most of them, is that they're very sexually involved with each other. I can't share names or details, but be assured that the relationships would surprise you. Most of the people here are bisexual; they have a strong preference–Tim and Charlie, for example, are strongly gay–but they swing either way when invited. You've heard Tim, Billy, and others talk about love and support being important for athletic success. Well, they believe that for some, probably many, people the love aspect of that should include sex. I can assure you that that's true for the Cavers, which includes me."
"Well, I see why we're in a corner of the room for this conversation. That's quite a lot to take in."
"Yes, it is. And I would've liked to have done it gradually. But, as I said, there isn't time."
"Where is the leading? Or can I guess?"
"You can probably guess. I'm offering you a chance to explore your sexuality and perhaps find a level of peace and acceptance that'll enable you to do your very best in your athletic contests."
"Let me get this straight. Perhaps putting it a little bluntly. You're propositioning me, and suggesting that if I accept I might do better in my swimming."
"That does put it bluntly, but also incorrectly."
"How would you word it differently?"
"I'm not propositioning you. I have a completely satisfying sex life, and have no need to expand it to new partners. It won't be with my Olympic Village roommate, but I'll have healthy sexual experiences with a person or persons I love before my gymnastics events. My performance here in Sydney does not depend on a sexual relationship with you. On the other hand, as far as I know, you don't have such an opportunity here in Sydney–unless you and Nan have something going...."
"You don't have such an opportunity here, and many of us believe that it could enhance your chances as a swimmer. Let me explain: we really don't think that you can become a better swimmer by having sex, or being loved–whichever way you want to put it. We do believe that you often can, and will, come closer to your best possible effort in the context of being loved, and that includes being loved physically."
"What a concept."
"Talk to Billy about it. Nothing I've said here needs to be kept from him."
"So just what are you suggesting?"
"That for the next few days we spend quality time together, get to know each other, and see if a deeper relationship might be possible."
"A gay relationship?"
"A personal relationship. If it became physical, people would call it gay. I would call it loving and not be the least concerned about the gender of the people involved."
"I've always thought I was pretty opened minded about gays and lesbians. But I've never even dreamed that I might be gay."
"I doubt that you are. I don't think I am. But close, loving personal relationships don't have to be gender based. I'm not talking life-long commitments here, but loving relationships in the here and now."
"I need to think about this."
"If we were back in Grand Forks, I'd tell you to take your time, talk to people, mull it over. But you race in five days. No relationship can begin the night before a race and accomplish anything for that race. So here's the deal: I'm rooming with my brother Winston in Room 702. He has lots of friends here, so if you knock on the door, he'll be glad to disappear–it's really not a problem. He'd probably like an excuse to be gone. I think he's rooming with me until I go to the Village just to keep me company. If you come by, tonight or any night before we move to the Village, we'll continue this conversation in the privacy of my room. It may lead somewhere and it may not. No promises on either part. Now, I know some people–even ones that are very accepting of homosexuals–simply find the idea of physical, homosexual sex disgusting. If that describes you, and you don't think you can get beyond it, then this whole conversation is hopeless. But if you can have an open mind, then I strongly advise you to take advantage of an opportunity that most of the guys you're swimming against won't have."
"No, no. I'll admit that gay sex, for me, is a new idea. But it isn't repulsive or disgusting. Just unfamiliar, and I never expected to want to become familiar with it. I need to think."
"You've heard my comment on timing. Knock on the door at anytime of night, or catch me during the day if you can find me. Think about it."
They ate the rest of the dinner in either silence or small talk.
Tyler thought to himself, as he told me later, "Well, I've done what I could, made an offer, presented it as gently as I knew how. It's up to him. If I raise the subject again, he'll legitimately think I'm propositioning him–as he so bluntly put it."
The knock on the door came about 1:00 a.m. Winston and Tyler were in bed together, having done 69 an hour or so earlier as they went to bed. Tyler realized that Winston would rather be in bed with Lorrie, but that he felt an obligation to be supportive of his brother. Besides, Lorrie was in bed with Betts for the same reason. God, relationships could be complicated. Tyler was sure who it was and decided that he shouldn't open the door naked. So he slipped on a pair of boxers, and opened the door to Johnny.
"Oh, this is obviously a bad time."
"Not in the least. Let me get dressed and we'll go down to the buffet for a little snack and then come back up here if you're still so inclined."
They did, and Winston, wrapped in a towel, trotted off to the room three doors down the hall, behind which he would find Lorrie and Betts, and perhaps Julia. He got hard thinking about it.
They ate a light snack from the buffet, Johnny expressing surprise that it was still open. Tyler explained that Fred was well aware that he had both early birds and night owls in the group and wanted to take care of both. As they ate, Johnny said, "I don't know exactly what I'm letting myself in for, but two things came to the surface in my thinking, and believe me I've been thinking. First, I decided that I did mischaracterize your offer–it's incredibly generous. Second, I've come half way around the world in pursuit of an Olympic medal. If my coach and my generous roommate are suggesting that there's something I can do to enhance my chances, I'd be a damn fool to reject the offer. So, here I am. I'm not convinced, but I am willing to see where this leads.
They headed back upstairs. Their conversation lasted all night and never became physical. They talked about their loves, their dreams, their sports, their families, their girlfriends, their male friends who weren't boyfriends, and their sex lives–including that forbidden question, "When did you first masturbate?" Tyler was willing to be completely open with Johnny and that encouraged Johnny to be open with him. They found they had a lot in common, including a younger sibling (in Johnny's case a sister) who had a much stronger personality than they did. At 5:00 a.m. they again went down to the buffet for a light breakfast, and then came back up to the room and slept–both in their undershorts.
They awoke about noon, and Johnny seemed a little startled to find himself in a bed with another man, almost naked. Tyler simply rolled in Johnny's direction, wrapped his arms around him, and kissed him on the lips–their first physical contact beyond a handshake and accidental nudging during the night. Tyler said, "Let's take a shower."
"A shower? As in, together?"
"As in together."
"I guess I'm ready, after all we told each other last night."
The room had a tub shower, and they took turns standing under the water and sitting on a stool they put in the end of the tub that let them sit facing almost directly at the standing man's genitals. Sitting, Tyler said, "We both have very average sized dicks. How big does yours get?"
"I guess about average."
"Let's find out." With that Tyler took Johnny's dick in his right hand and his balls in his left hand, and squeezed and tickled."
It was soon apparent that Johnny did, indeed, have a very average sized dick. Johnny finished soaping his body, soaped his groin, and then traded places with Tyler. Tyler stood in front of Johnny and said, "Kiss it."
He immediately thought that he might've gone too far, but Johnny very gently and quickly kissed it. "Kiss my balls." Johnny did, equally quickly. See, it doesn't hurt. It's actually fun. I'm clean. Let's get out, and I'll dry you and you dry me. All of you and all of me.
"OK." And they did.
"Now let's lay on the bed without our underwear." They did. Tyler slowly moved his hand over to Johnny's dick and jacked him off. Johnny seemed completely willing to let him. When Johnny came, Tyler got tissues and cleaned him up, and then he said, "Winston and I had a fling last night before you came, so if I don't come this morning I won't be frustrated. But you're free to play with my body as you choose."
"You and Winston are brothers, right? You had sex together?"
"Sure. Not much chance of our having a child, which is the problem with incest. No such problem at all for us."
Johnny said, "I know enough about gay sex to know that I should give you a blow job."
"I hate that term. It's both crude and inaccurate. If you would like to have oral sex, suck my dick, or perform fellatio you're welcome to, and, yes, I would enjoy it. And just to keep it simple, in my circles we simply use the word suck; there isn't much else for you to suck."
Johnny very hesitantly took Tyler in his mouth and sucked. Tyler had to suggest that he use the tongue more, and guided him to move his head up and down, but he got the idea fairly quickly and soon found himself with a load of semen in his mouth. Tyler understood his predicament and said, "Spit it on my stomach or walk in and spit it in the toilet."
It went on his stomach. Johnny said, "I should swallow it, shouldn't I?"
"Only if you're into that, and you obviously aren't. I've had my thrill, what you do with it doesn't change it for me." Tyler told me later, "That was a little bit of a white lie. I get a charge out of swallowing and having my cum swallowed, but I sure wasn't going to say that to Johnny and lay a guilt trip on him."
They each headed off to get in a little exercise or practice, agreeing to meet again for dinner. At dinner Tyler gathered a larger group including the other Cavers, Dylan, Julia, Lorrie, and Betts, as well as Winston. As the meal progressed each in some way made it clear that they knew and understood the new relationship between Tyler and Johnny, and were not only untroubled by it, but were enthusiastic. Winston said, "And with you sleeping with my brother tonight, I can get back to Lorrie, which is where I belong."
On the first day of competition Johnny had the 8th fastest time in the qualifying races, and was the 6th place qualifier in the semifinals. He would be in the final race the next day. That night, as he and Tyler drifted off to sleep after exchanging sucks, Johnny told him, "My two races today were wonderful. I really don't think I would've had a chance to be in the finals tomorrow without your love. Thank you."
It'd also been the day for the women's gymnastics qualifying rounds. Our women did well, with Julia and Lorrie making the USA team for the team medal competition, and both qualifying for the individual all-around. In addition Julia qualified in floor exercises, Lorrie on the uneven parallel bars, and Betts on the balance beam. That all of our Cavers would be moving on to the final rounds in at least one event was wonderful. Marty was beside himself. "We're still five out of five, Charlie!"
Monday, September 18, 2000, dawned in Sydney, Australia, at 6:51 a.m. Tim and I were standing on the beach watching it. (Don't ask me when we had to get up to accomplish that feat; love can do strange things to a man.) I don't even like to think about when the support team had to get up to be ready for Tim and me, but, of course, they had.
I have to pause and say a little about our team. Old salts that saw them function, not only in Sydney, but in a dozen other venues where we'd raced and practiced, all agreed that they were the best functioning support team that had ever been assembled. They were almost so good that if I started to sneeze, a Kleenex would somehow appear in my hand. The boats were always ready, the sails were always perfectly stored, malfunctions and breakages were immediately fixed, spare parts magically materialized. It was almost as if Auggie could whistle and the perfect wind for that day's practice would blow in from the west. Auggie and Goose were ready to guide us, or compete with us, whichever seemed to be the best plan for the day. Pictures and photographs of the day magically appeared on our hotel room walls. Meals, excellent ones, just happened. Tim and I were the most spoiled individuals on the face of the earth. Fred repeatedly reminded us that our equivalent to the stroke of midnight, when we would lose our glass slippers, was as we stepped off of the medalists' podium at the end of the final race.
As we stood looking east out over the Tasman Sea at what would be the northern tip of New Zealand if the earth didn't curve, that final event of our sailing lives was a week away. Between now and then were six brutal days of sailboat racing. Everything that we'd worked for these past three plus years came down to this week. I had a good feeling. I thought we were ready. I know that Auggie thought we were ready. Tim was as confident as Jumper thinking about his winning streak. And, oh yes, Jumper was part of Fred's collection of hangers on.
Auggie walked up. "Did you have a good breakfast? All ready? The boat's ready. Time to get out there and get the feel of the wind. Sail it over to Rushcutters Bay and get ready. Fred, Marty, and a bunch of the others are in a chartered spectators boat. Your support boat will be manned by me, Goose, Perry, Norman, and Curtis. Lynn'll be aboard, assisted by Millie. David and Gene are standing by on shore, one at the marina and one at the Olympic sailing center–I'm not sure who is where, Perry arranged that. We've got you covered. David and Gene will trade off with Curtis from time to time during the week, but the the others have specific assigned tasks, and Perry didn't want them changing now that we're down to the real thing.
Tim said, "Auggie, I know that Charlie and I have said it often, but it needs to be said again. Thank you. Thank you for accomplishing what the rest of the sailing world said was impossible. You, Perry, and your teams are simply the best there is. Now let's win a Goddammed medal."
"Damn straight." With that he handed over the boat, Tim and I boarded; and we sailed off. Auggie headed for the support launch, where the others were already on board. We were off.
The first race was a disaster. There was a good breeze, and we were maneuvering for a good start position, thinking we had it timed perfectly. But we crossed the starting line about a second ahead of the starting horn. At that point we were ahead of all the other boats, but in last place. We had to get out of the way, come about, sail around and recross the starting line. We were last out of seventeen boats. Tim did a good job of sailing the boat for the rest of the race, and we'd improved our position to eleventh place by the time the race ended. We were totally depressed.
As soon as the support boats were allowed to approach the 49ers Auggie was upon us. "Tim, Charlie, that was a fabulous recovery, not one skipper here could've done it better. You salvaged an eleventh place instead of a last–could be very important in the final scoring."
Only Auggie, or somebody trained by Jumper or Tim, could've put that kind of spin on what obviously was a disaster! He went on, "I am so mad at myself. We should've spent more time on the best way to recover when you jump the starting horn. But you did a great job." By then we were in the support launch and Goose, Perry, Norman and Millie were in the 49er. They'd go over every fitting, every inch of line, replacing anything that was in any way not perfect. It was Millie's job to check the sails. That was done in a very few minutes, and Goose and Perry sailed the boat to the assembly area for the next race, which was about a half hour away. Just a note: Auggie and Perry had spent a considerable amount of time deciding just who should be on the team that did the post-race inspection of the Freddie. The others were good, but these four were the best and most meticulous. Although it might've been considered a put-down, the others accepted the selection. Perry had been worried that they might've resented his choosing Norman, but everyone understood that nobody on the team understood sailboat maintenance as well as he–having spent all his life around boats.
We were used to this routine, it was standard Auggie–and Perry. Overkill, of course, but they didn't believe in missing anything or any opportunity to improve the odds, even a tiny bit. There were food and drinks in the launch for us, hot cocoa or Coke depending on our mood or the temperature. We were drinking Cokes when Auggie said, "OK, now you need a lecture about the next race."
I thought, OK, here it comes. He's going to lower the boom about our timing of the start. But I was wrong.
"Timing errors happen. Boats capsize. Shit happens. The biggest problem in those situations is that you get scared, you get conservative, you stop pushing it. You lost a maximum of ten points today [the difference between a first and eleventh place finish.] If you start chickening out on your starts you could lose one or two points–per race. With fourteen counting races to go, that could be a loss of 14 to 25 points, maybe more. You can't have that. Forget about today's start. Shit happens. But don't let it screw you up for the rest of the races. Push it. Push it. Push it."
Tim said, "Don't worry Auggie. I understand the concept. We'll push it. Right up your ass if you don't look out."
Auggie giggled. "I dare you to try it."
"I'll wait till I have some kind of medal to shove up there."
"Now you're talking." The launch had approached the Freddie and we traded places with Goose and Perry. We were off on race number two. I couldn't help but wonder what the effect of the disastrous first race would be.
I needn't have worried. Tim didn't let up a bit. We were close on the horn at the start and crossed the line first. We never gave up first place position. Since the score in your two poorest races wasn't counted, we figured we were tied for first place with the boat that won the first race. That was the Australian entry, and they did prove to be one of the top competitors for the gold.
Our first day of racing was over. We wouldn't be racing the next day, but Auggie had plans for us. "The weather forecast for the next few days is for tricky winds. I think we need to practice righting capsized boats."
For the first time in this whole exercise Tim objected, "Auggie, I want to watch Julia and Lorrie in gymnastics team competition."
Auggie stood his ground. "Until you, or somebody else, stands on the podium, you're a sailor. Tomorrow we sail. That was the deal."
Tim, not too happily, responded, "Aye, aye, sir."
While we'd been sailing that Monday, Dylan and Tyler and the US Men's Gymnastics team had been securing a bronze medal. Marty was beside himself. "My boys were the top two point winners on the US team, Charlie. The Marty Center is still on the map. Oh, I'm so sorry that you weren't there to watch, but you can watch the videos. Oh, God, it was wonderful." Dylan and Tyler were much more restrained.
The official team coach had approached Marty and told him, "You run one Hell of an impressive program. Five gymnasts here, and those two were simply great today."
Tyler was really pissed that he couldn't watch Johnny in his final race, but their times conflicted. The gymnasts were, of course, all watching the men's competition, but Tyler had insisted that JoJo, Jinx, and Als go watch Johnny, and a good part of Fred's crowd were there to cheer him on. He came in fourth–way ahead of anybody's expectation, and the only American that had made it to the final. He was as proud of his "Victory Diploma" as he would've been of a medal. His parents and sister were near the front of the audience, and he made his way to them as soon as it was possible. They were simply overjoyed. It'd been quite a journey for Johnny and his family. He hadn't expected to qualify for the Trials in Norman, and certainly didn't expect his parents to receive Fred's invitation to travel to Norman. He hadn't expected to qualify for Sydney, but he had! The invitation for his family, this time including his sister, to be Fred's guest in Sydney was completely unexpected, and almost refused–except that it was virtually impossible to refuse a Fred Milson invitation. Making the finals was simply icing on the cake, and a fourth place finish was beyond their wildest dreams. His mother hugged him and asked, "Wasn't that your fastest time ever? What on earth has gotten into you? You were really spectacular."
"I did that well in practice a couple of times; this was the best in competition. We need to have a long conversation, but not now, and perhaps not until we're back home."
"We love you, honey. And congratulations."
His sister said, "My God, my big brother is a hero. Who would've guessed?"
He didn't see Tyler until they were back together in their room at the Olympic Village. He said, "Oh, Tyler, Tyler, I got a fourth. I'm just so happy. And your team got the bronze, I hear." He simply broke down completely with tears of happiness. That night they simply couldn't get enough of each other, doing 69 and for the first time in his life Johnny swallowed it all with more tears of joy.
Tim and I spent the next day in a remote corner of Sydney harbor, tipping over a sailboat (the Maddie II, Auggie wouldn't allow abuse of the Freddie) and righting it, tipping it over and righting it. Turning it turtle and righting it. He wasn't happy with our handling of righting a turtled 49er, and we spent lunch hour thinking about the right protocol, learning it, and then the first couple of hours in the afternoon practicing it. To right a turtled sailboat, someone has to go under the boat and drop the sail. To do that you have to slip off your life jacket. We already knew that, but the change in procedure was that Tim now tossed it to me and I lay on it, giving me the lift of two life jackets. That extra lift allowed me to pull the trapeze and get the mast horizontal to the water. By then Tim would have his life jacket back on (but not fastened) and we'd raise the mast together. Then I'd raise the sail as he got in position with his life jacket fastened. Do you have any idea how boring it is to repeat that again and again? Tim and I do; Norman says that everybody on the team did, but that Auggie seemed to be fascinated with the whole process and kept time carefully. We finally did it in under thirty seconds (he wouldn't tell us how much under), and we were done–with turning the boat turtle. Then we practiced righting a capsized boat a dozen or so times. By dinner we were completely done in, and ready to do in Auggie. His response was, "Let's eat. You guys deserve a good steak."
While we were getting drowned in Sydney Harbor, Julie, Lorrie and two other American women gymnasts were winning a silver team medal. Auggie was ultimately forgiven for making us miss that wonderful event, but not that evening. We did let him, and all of the team, join us for a great steak dinner, however.
The next day Dylan was competing in the individual six-event all-around competition. Tim and I were crushed that we wouldn't be able to see it, but we had three races that day, and they would take our full time. In the actual event we raced to the Olympic SuperDome, hoping to see at least one of Dylan's performances. We got there in time to see him do his vault and floor exercises. His vault was very good; his floor exercises were almost as spectacular as anything that Tim had ever done. He landings were a little further from the edge, but I believe in all other respects he was as good as Tim. The judges thought so too, with all of them giving him either a 9.9 or a 10. Best of all, we saw him climb onto the podium and receive his silver medal. Marty went nuts. Dylan was, on the outside at least, the picture of calm. He congratulated the Russian who'd beaten him, and hugged the Canadian who'd gotten the bronze.
Our sailing was incredible that day. The first race of the morning had been very straight forward; we'd gotten off to a good start (second across the line) and sailed a flawless race. So did the Frenchmen who started just ahead of us, and we had a second. As we got ready for the second race, Auggie warned us about some very tricky winds that seemed to be picking up. They didn't seem too bad to us, but we quickly learned better as a swirling wind pushed us over, tossing the two of us into the sail. Just then we were caught by a wave and the damn boat was bobbing in the water, completely turtled. Tim started his drill the instant we knew what had happened, and I started my procedure as well. His head bobbed up, signaling that the sail was down and the mast could be raised. We both pulled and up it popped; I mounted the boat, raised the sail, and looked toward Tim, who was already set and at the helm, and we were off. Three other boats tipped in that little "stormlet" and one of them turtled. Our skill at righting the boat was so vastly better than the competition that we managed to recover a decent position, and came in seventh.
Auggie greeted us with a shout, "Twenty-two seconds. Twenty-two seconds to right a turtle. That's incredible. You guys were terrific. Oh, God, terrific."
Tim said, "OK, Auggie, you're forgiven for yesterday."
"Yesterday? What was yesterday? Oh, you mean our little practice session. You know, the Boy Scouts got it right; Be Prepared."
I said, "Thanks to you we were."
"You guys did the work. I just harassed you. We have time to go ashore for a decent lunch, then you have another race."
Auggie, Tim, and I ate together–just the three of us. I asked, "Don't the others want to join us for lunch?"
Auggie replied, "Not when there's a race to be ready for. It's your job to relax; it's my job to see that you do; it's everybody else's job to make sure everything is ready. It will be. Gads, Charlie, Perry has that team working like clockwork–like a fine Swiss watch. Everybody's remarked at the job they do; it's just been fantastic, but they don't break for a leisurely lunch just before a race. On the other hand, the sailors should and are."
There wasn't anything special about the last race, and we were third. Then we raced to the SuperDome for the end of the gymnastics.
The next day we had four races and Julia and Lorrie were competing in the women's individual four-event all-around. Our four races proved to be pretty routine. We got a first, third, first, and fifth, but with our having four races, and the women's gymnastics all-around involving only four events, there was no chance of us getting to see any of the girls' performances.
Julia's forte was floor exercises, and Lorrie's was the uneven parallel bars, but both of them were damn good in all four events or they wouldn't have qualified for the all-around competition. It wasn't surprising that both of them got the top scores among all competitors for their respective lead events, floor exercises and uneven parallel bars. Both slipped a little in the vault, but both did extremely well on the balance beam. I think that's because Tim had been both an inspiration and a coach for them on the beam. Julia did quite respectably on the uneven bars, and Lorrie fooled everybody, including her coach and teammates with her spectacular performance in floor exercises. Her final run, with spectacular somersaults ending with two and a half twists, bringing her down facing the corner of the mat she had left from, with her heels so close to the other corner that you could hardly see a separation, and not the slightest shimmer of a foot coming loose made everyone who had ever seen Tim perform think of him. And certainly Lorrie had been thinking of him as she performed. She admitted afterwards that it'd been a gamble. "I looked at the points. If I'd done anything less, the best I could've gotten was a bronze, and that would've required the Romanian to have a less than perfect performance. On the other hand, if I nailed the performance I gave, I was going to capture gold. I couldn't think of anything other than Auggie yelling, 'Push it, push it, push it.' So I pushed it. I got lucky."
She also got a gold medal, and Julia got the bronze. An unheard of finish for US women's gymnastics–only very rarely had two American women gymnasts stood on the podia together, and never before in the individual all-around.
The next day Tim and I had three races, and Nan had her preliminary platform dives. I guess before I tell about Nan's diving I'd better tell about her experience with her roommate Als. If you remember, she'd been warned that she might get a sexual invitation from Als, and was assured that she should not hesitate to turn it down if that was her wish. With that warning in the background, she and Als left the hotel together on move in day at the Village. The got moved in and headed for the cafeteria in the Village to eat lunch. At lunch Nan asked Als, quite simply, "Are you a lesbian?"
"What makes you think I might be? Do I look like a lesbian? What does a lesbian look like?"
"It was suggested to me that I might get a sexual invitation from you."
"Wow. And that didn't stop you from wanting to room with me?"
"Of course not. It made me eager."
"I guess that means that you're a lesbian. Well I'm not. I like fucking boys too damn much. And among the Marauders, I'm the only girl, so I don't have much of a chance at other girls. But I'm sure willing, eager is probably the correct word. How about you?"
"I like eager. It fits."
"How experienced are you?"
"One girlfriend in high school, and I'm just getting to know a girl at UND."
"Know as in the Biblical sense?"
"Oh, I hope so, but we're just beginning."
"I suggest we head to our room right after lunch and be eager together."
"Eat fast, I'm in a hurry."
"I take it that you don't feel you'd be doing something behind your girlfriend's back if we were to head upstairs."
"Not at all. We aren't committed to each other, and when we headed off on summer vacation last June we both agreed that we had no commitment–we'd see what the fall brought. I had no idea at that time that I was going to be here in Sydney in September and not at school in Grand Forks. I'm hoping that something develops next month, but this month I'm free."
Als told me that much, but her descriptions of what went on in the room were minimal. "You know, we did the kind of stuff girls do. You can figure it out."
If sexual affirmation was part of athletic preparation, both Nan and Als had plenty by the time Nan was ready for her first dive. She gave a very creditable performance, and was one of two American women who advanced to the semifinals, which would be two days hence.
Auggie greeted us that morning in a foul mood. "Weather's terrible for sailing. There's only a very light breeze, and it's quite steady. No challenge at all. You guys haven't had enough practice in light winds. Well, there's a reason for that: most of the places we've been sailing have a record of pretty consistent winds for sailing. That's why they became popular places to sail. And, oh shit, yes, the worst thing about light winds is that results become very random. There just isn't that much a good sailor can do to make his boat go faster or manoeuver more cleverly to get ahead in a race. Too damn much luck is involved."
I told him, "Well, we'll just have to do our best. Nothing to do about it, and no reason to get upset. We could get lucky, you know."
We didn't get lucky. In the three races of the day we placed 9th, 14th, and 8th. However, the good thing about the day is that none of the boats that were highly competitive with us in the standings did any better. The top three boats in the three races all had pretty poor records going into today's races, and it didn't look like any of them would be a future threat.
At this point Tim and I were tied for second place. If you dropped everyone's worst two scores (which of course presumed that we wouldn't have an even worse race in the final two days), the Australians led with a score of 35. We were tied with the French with a score of 40. The closest competitor was the English with a score of 46. Everyone else had a score over 50. With four races to go it was easy to contemplate any of the four of us getting the gold medal, or not getting a medal at all. The next two days would be critical. Auggie's advice? "Get a good night's sleep."
The next day, Saturday, September 23, 2000, was going to be a big day. Billie and Willie would be diving, and Tim and I would have three out of our last four races. It was certainly possible that the 49er gold medal could be settled by Saturday's races, but that didn't seem likely.
To Auggie's delight, the weather was terrible or wonderful, depending on your point of view. Nasty winds, heavy cloud, on and off rain, cold. By nasty winds Auggie didn't mean strong, he meant variable, shifting, even sneaky as if the wind had a personality. His opening advice was, "Push it today, and don't screw up, and you win gold. Be overly cautious today, and you hand the gold medal to someone else, probably the French, because they're the gutsiest sailors. Go out there and give 'em Hell."
With that he held the boat for us, and we stepped in. We soon had the sail up and we were off. And, my God, the wind was even worse (or better) than Auggie had described it. It was regularly shifting through well over ninety degrees, with gusts almost up to thirty knots and the underlying base wind at just under twenty knots. We had about a hour to practice in Rushcutters Bay and then we had to head to the assembly area to get ready for the first start. As we began practice Tim warned me, "We're going to capsize a couple of times. I need to get familiar with just how far I can push it in this weather. We also need to learn to right the boat in this nasty stuff."
"Did Auggie put you up to this?"
"No, but we've been learning from the master, you know. And you know that that's what he'd be doing."
"I'll have to admit you're right on all counts. I guess that means that I'm going to get very wet. I hope he has lots of cocoa on that launch of his. He's probably drinking some right now."
"I'm sure he is. We don't pay him to rough it."
"You're right; incredibly, we pay him to make us rough it."
"You got it. Well, here we go."
You get the picture. It wasn't an hour that I want to repeat. But I'll have to admit, we were much better prepared for the races because of it. As the boats assembled, somebody remarked to us, "You guys were having a lot of trouble out there. I hope you have better luck in the races."
Tim just smiled, and I could see Auggie chuckling, as he handed us two huge hot mugs of cocoa and said, "If all goes as it's supposed to, you won't need these after your races."
And we were off. We were one second behind the lead boat, but it was the Italians who, unexpectedly, were not a threat to our ranking. The first boat over was the French; evidently they were pushing a little too hard. Next over was the New Zealand boat, then Ukraine, then Poland. They were going over like ten-pins. The Australians and the English took their turns. The amazing thing was that none of the boats that tipped made a quick recovery. The nasty wind and choppy seas seemed to buffalo them. Then Tim and I both missed a squall coming on us, and it was our turn to tip. We were so well drilled in righting a boat, and we functioned like perfect clockwork, that we were up and running again before the second boat passed us. The one boat that did pass us was the Norwegians, and they went on to win the race with us second behind them. Luckily, the Norwegians weren't in contention for a medal, and their beating us had no effect on the standings. The English came in sixth, the Australians came in eighth, and the French came in ninth. In the case of the French, their ninth position was one of their two worst finishes, so their score went to 47 instead of 49. The Australians score now stood at 43 and the English at 52. We were again in the lead. Now all we had to do was hold it.
Auggie was delirious, hugging us both. "I couldn't believe how fast you got that boat up. Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. That would've been fast for calm water, but you did it under frightful conditions. Everybody in the support boats that was watching was in a state of shock. They had all assumed that when you went over, their boats would make up for their losses when they went over. Not a chance. You two guys were the only ones out there that did a decent job of righting a boat. And did you see those Norwegians? They sure know how to handle this weather. A couple more firsts for them today and they could be competitive. I don't know where they've been before." And on and on. He was so excited we didn't know how to slow him down.
But Perry did. He handed us cocoa and reminded Auggie of the next race. With that he and Goose took the Freddie to the assembly area, and we tried to relax and rest a little. Auggie shut up.
The next race was a little more controlled. People were now used to the weather and were cautious. Exactly what Auggie had warned us about. I couldn't believe how not cautious Tim was. He took Auggie's advice to push it without reservation. Miraculously we never tipped. And that, of course, was exactly the formula for getting a first place, which we did. The English were second, right behind us, followed by the Norwegians and then the Australians. The French were sixth.
Almost all of the sailors ate in a restaurant near Rushcutters Bay. Up until today there had been very little interchange between the sailors at the between races meal. It wasn't that there was hostility–the group actually got along well and were pretty good friends, especially when they had a common language, and most here did speak English. Rather, everybody was concentrating on the next race and didn't feel like talking. Today, however, almost every sailor came over to us and congratulated us for how quickly we'd managed to right our boat. Auggie said, "Clearly everybody understands that today they saw an example of extraordinary seamanship. I have to add my congratulations, that was superb."
"Auggie, you're entitled to an 'I told you so.' You were the one that told us to go out there this morning and practice."
I reminded Tim that, in fact, Auggie hadn't said a thing.
"That's because he knew we'd do it anyway. But his training for three years is what counted."
Auggie said, "I never would say, 'I told you so.' If the shoe fits, you'd wear it without my saying anything. But today was completely your decision. Congratulations on making a wise one. You got teased a little for it, but he who laughs last, laughs best."
The last race of the day was Perry's victory! The wind increased, and things were really problematical. We had to be cautious; the weather gave us no choice. We were sailing neck and neck with the French when there was a loud crack–a trapeze wire had broken its fitting where it attached to the mast. What is worse, when it broke the crew slipped on the wing and it cracked. Two other boats had damage and couldn't finish. I say that it was Perry's victory (Tim and I came in first) because the Freddie, lovingly and meticulously cared for by Perry, Norman, and the entire support team, never came close to any kind of equipment failure. And in both times between races that day Perry and his team replaced several lines and fittings. God bless that crew.
God bless Perry for something that evening. It appeared that the French team was out permanently. Their port wing was damaged beyond repair, and they didn't have a spare. At dinner Perry heard of their plight and headed to the marina where their boat was moored. He offered the spare port wing from the Freddie. It was an incredibly generous act, though, in fact, once the race the next day started we'd never be able to use our spare, because the last race would be over before it could be used. But Perry wasn't thinking in those terms. He was the perfect embodiment of Tim's philosophy that you want to win only if you're best is better than the other guy's best. Beating the French team because of an equipment failure would be no victory. Perry's gesture was accepted and the French were ready to sail the next day. And that gesture was the talk of the sailing community.
When he heard about it, Fred talked to Perry. "Thank you for helping out the French team last night. It makes us all look good."
"I knew that was the right thing to do, and that everyone would support me."
"Auggie tells me you didn't talk to him in advance."
"That's right. Should I have?"
"Indeed not. That was a support team decision, and you have always had full authority to make those decisions. I'm proud that you felt you could make the decision."
"Thank you, Uncle Fred. Honestly, it was the right thing to do, and I never even thought about getting permission."
"That's my boy. I love ya', Perry."
"I love you, too, Uncle Fred."
As we entered the last race we had a commanding lead, so much so that we were guaranteed at least a silver medal. With our second place in the first race the previous day and then winning the next two, we now had a score of 44. If we got a terrible score, or even if we didn't finish the last race, the worst we could get was an 11, because that was our finish in the first race, and it was currently not counting. So if we came in twelfth in the last race, the 12 wouldn't count and the 11 would. So the worst net score we could end up with was a 55. The Australians currently had a 50, so they could beat us. But the French had a 62 after not finishing the last race of the previous day, and the English had a 58, even with a fourth place finish in the third race.
While all that was going on father and son, Billy and Willie, were putting on the performances of their lives in synchronized platform diving. My report came from Hardie, who told me that as of the first pair of dives the competition was strictly for second place. Hardie said, "I've watched Tim and Billy, and Tim and Willie, and they are good. But Willie and his dad were simply out of this world. Flawless from beginning to end. What can I say? It was perfection. They have one advantage diving together over either of them diving with Tim. They're almost exactly the same size and build. They even look alike. Billy is in perfect shape, as is Willie. They sail into the water like they were cloned. Oh, Charlie, I'm so sorry that you and Tim had to miss it. But I know you'll see the films."
I have nothing to add to that. I've seen the films. Hardie wasn't exaggerating. They both had their gold medals around their necks when they ran up to us as we beached the Freddie. They were justifiably proud. Father and son, two gold medals. What a finale to two grand diving careers. Who would ever have guessed, even six months before? No one.
The next two days would involve individual efforts by Dylan on rings, Lorrie on the uneven bars, and Nan from the platform on Sunday, and on Monday Tyler on vault, Julie on floor exercises, and Betts on the beam. Marty was really keyed up. I asked him, "Marty, why are you so excited? Your Cavers did well at the two previous Olympics, what's the bid deal this year?"
"The fact that it's our third year. And we're still doing well with all of the first generation of Cavers gone. Think about it. Think what it says about our program, about the concept of love and support, about Tim's leadership and Fred's enthusiasm. It's like pinning a gold medal on the whole thing. I mentioned the word dynasty to Fred at the Trials and he told me to curb my ego. But the Marty Center can really say that we're an Olympic dynasty. That's why I'm so excited. And if these kids can add some medals today and tomorrow, it'll just make my day."
His day was made. Both days. On Sunday Dylan got bronze on the rings and Lorrie got silver on the uneven parallel bars. Monday Tyler got a bronze medal for his vault, Betts got silver for her work on the balance beam (which pleased Tim no end), and Julia just missed a third medal when she got 4th in floor exercises. Tim and I had our final race on Sunday, and we were finished in time to see something, and we decided to watch Nan in the finals of women's platform diving.
The women's platform diving was dominated that year by a Chinese and an Indiana Univerisity woman who had beaten Nan at the Trials. Those two duked it out dive by dive for first place. Behind them was a large cluster of divers competing for the bronze medal. By the time the finals began, it was clear that the two had a lock on gold and silver, and the distance between the two groups spread as the finals proceeded. On the other hand, the competition for bronze became very intense. Nan held her own, doing quite well in all of her dives, but never sufficiently better than the others to lock in bronze. It was coming down to the last dive, one of the optionals. She was doing a fairly difficult dive, responding to Tim's advice in practice to concentrate on difficult dives for maximum points. She talked to Tim before the dive and told him, "I'm a little afraid of this. It's a tough dive and I have to do it perfectly."
Tim answered, "But, you've put yourself in position so that if you do it perfectly you get the medal. If you're going to miss the medal it's far better that it be because of something you did, not somebody else's success that you couldn't do anything about. Now, you and I both know you're capable of acing this dive. So go out there and ace it. Do it for Als."
"You know about me and Als?"
"I know about everything. I think its wonderful. Now go ace it for Als."
She did. She got the best point score of any diver on the final dive, paired with the greatest difficulty dive. As soon as the score was posted she knew she had a lock on the bronze. She ran and kissed Tim, who said, "Not me, silly, Als. She's right over there."
"I know. I'm on my way." She and Als kissed for the first time in public, and they weren't embarrassed. Tim gave them both a thumbs up.
That was late Sunday. But for Tim and me Sunday was final race day and it started pretty early in the morning. The Australians had an impossible challenge in the last race. With our score of 44, if we placed sixth we'd have a score of 50. If the Australians were first, they'd have a score of 51. They had to have a great race, and we had to have a disaster.
Tim and I talked the night before and decided to invite the entire team, all eleven, to eat breakfast together the next morning. We arranged a small private dining room in the hotel, just off the main room where the buffet was served. We all helped ourselves from the buffet and went to the round table in the private room. As soon as we were all there Tim spoke for the two of us. "We have a difficult decision to make this morning. And Charlie and I think it should be a group decision. We want your honest thoughts. We have a commanding lead. If we come in sixth or better we have to win. If we come in seventh, and the Australians are first, we have a tie. If we come in eighth or worse the Australians have a chance at beating us. That's the mathematics. So what do we do? Play it safe, take no risks, make sure we start back in the pack so we can't screw up the start, never push it? Or do we sail to win the race, realizing that a bad start, like the first race, or capsizing, could give the gold to the Australians?
Interestingly, it was David that spoke first. He said, "You know, that's an easy decision. You've always said that you wanted a medal, and that you didn't care what color it was. You're guaranteed a silver medal. So you're risking nothing. Hang on to your integrity. Sail for all you're worth. Get another first. Go out with a 45 and set a record that may never be beaten." (Remember, this was the first Olympics with 49ers, so whatever score we achieved would be a record.) "Now, if you were risking not getting any medal, well maybe there would have to be a different answer."
Auggie said, "I disagree." I was really surprised to hear Auggie say that, but then he continued. "I'd be quite upset if Tim and Charlie didn't sail their hearts out, at any risk. I haven't been saying, 'Push it, push it, push it,' simply when it's good strategy. You play to win, and you sail to win. That's what competition is all about. And if your best isn't better than the Australians' best today, well they deserve the medal. And if you don't go out there and do your absolute best, I hope you have the decency to refuse a silver or bronze medal which you certainly wouldn't deserve."
The group around the table stood as one and clapped. It was very clear that he was speaking for the entire group.
Tim said, "Thank you. There was no way I was going to go out there today and risk the gold medal unless you were all firmly behind me. That medal belongs to this entire group, not just to Charlie and me. I didn't have the right to risk your medal without your participating in the decision. Charlie and I will sail this race exactly as we have the previous fifteen races–to win."
Our start wasn't perfect, we were second across the line, behind the French, not the Australians. We pushed the boat as hard as we could. I think Tim actually took more risks that usual, but luck, or skill, was with us and we did well. The Australians sailed like demons. They passed us on the second leg of the race and we never were able to catch up. The French stayed ahead as well, and somehow the Poles got in front of us. "Push it, push it, push it," is no guarantee of success, and unless you're in risky situations or weather, pushing it doesn't separate winners from losers with any certainty. So we finished fourth, behind the Australians, French, and Poles. The English came in sixth, right behind the Norwegians, who weren't in the running for a medal despite a couple of successful races. The final net scores were: USA 48, Australia 51, England and France tied at 64. The rules made no provision for breaking ties, so both England and France received bronze medals.
There was a one hour period for lodging protests, and none were lodged that would affect the awarding of medals. (There was a dispute that would affect boats in eighth or ninth place, and that was, of course, important to those crews, but didn't affect the medals, so the ceremony could proceed.) As soon as we were all assembled near where spectators had been seated to watch the races, it was time for the ceremony to begin. Tim grabbed my left hand in his right hand like a vice. We walked forward with the other three crews and took our places in front of the podia. He never once let go of my hand, or even loosened his grip, until he had to. The announcer introduced us as the gold medal winners and we walked to the center podium and mounted it. The officials came forward and placed the gold medal around Tim's neck. At that point he had to break his hold on my hand and accept congratulations and a congratulatory hug. Then it was my turn, and I got the second Olympic gold medal of my life hung around my neck. I remember thinking back on my father's comment to Tim when Tim had talked about my potential as an Olympic athlete. Dad had a hard time accepting that. He did live to see me become a pretty good archer, but not at the level of the Olympics. That came after his death. My Olympic success would've made him so proud. I had to hope that, somehow, he was looking down on the events of the day. My father had been a loving father, and had learned to love his gay son and that son's partner. It was the tragedy of his life that he didn't live to see his son win not one, but two, Olympic gold medals in two different sports–almost a third of a century apart.
Then the Australians were mounting their podium and getting their silver medals, followed by the English and French who received their bronze medals. Then that wonderful announcement, "Ladies and gentlement, the National Anthem of the United States of America." I could feel my heart pounding with every note of the anthem, and I could feel Tim beside me, just as proud and happy. When the anthem ended we hugged and congratulated the other winners, and then Tim turned to me and hugged me tight, and then gave me the kiss of a lifetime. Then he said, "Oh, Charlie, it's a dream come true. Thank you, thank you. I know you did it all for me, and I love you for it. Thank you."
"Thank you, Tim. I did it for both of us. I love you, kid. You're the best."
"Wrong, Charlie. You are."
By then Auggie and the entire team had reached us. Tim draped his medal around Auggie's neck and I put mine around Perry's neck. I said, "These are yours as much as ours. Without you guys, all of you, we could never have won these."
Within ten minutes Willie, Billy, Fred, Hardie, and Larry Knudsen had surrounded Tim and me and begun to lead us away. Fred explained, "Tim and Willie need extensive diving practice. They need a pair of diving boards designed for tandem diving. The ones here in Sydney are being used by too many athletes. But they've had the use of them all week. Tim and Willie haven't been able to dive this week. So I've arranged for the two of them to dive using the facilities of the University of Melbourne. We have a private jet standing by to take us there right now. It'll have us back on Thursday morning in time for the springboard synchronized diving event."
Whew! I turned to Tim, "Did you know anything about this?"
"Not a thing."
Fred said, "Of course not. Nothing was allowed to distract him from his sailing. That was Willie's deal. But Tim's deal was that he'd give himself totally to Willie and diving as soon as the sailing was over."
When we headed to the airport we were joined by our spouses: Larry's wife Karen, Billy's Sara, Willie's Sally, Hardie's Connie, and Fred's Marty. It was about an hour and a half flight to Melbourne. We ate on the plane and damned if Tim and Willie didn't head off to the university pool as soon as we landed. We all headed to the pool: Billy, Larry, and Hardie to coach, Tim and Willie to dive, and the rest of us to watch. It was midnight before they quit. Fred had a hotel booked very near the university and we headed there. Fred announced, "OK, here are the arrangements for the night. Tonight Tim needs to be with Charlie, but he also needs to be with Willie, so the three of them will be together. The rest of us will pair up with our mates–I guess–and Sally you can bunk in where you like."
"I'll just bunk in with you and Marty, Uncle Fred."
"Oooooh. Super," smiled Fred.
Draw your own conclusions.
Tim, Willie and I ended up in a huge room with two queen sized beds. Willie said, "Look, you two. You had the time of your lives today, and I know you want to celebrate it together. You two on that bed, and I'll head for this one. Charlie, beginning tomorrow morning he's mine for three days. Then you can have him back, decorated with another Olympic medal."
It was late for Tim, and I knew he was tired. I also knew that he was going to have sex with me that night, no matter what. I told him to lay on the bed, and Willie undressed him while I undressed myself. I spooned up behind him, reached around and played with his balls while he wiggled his ass against my very hard dick. He soon wiggled around and sucked me and then I sucked him. All said and done, that was our favorite form of sex, and we didn't see any reason to do something else that night. Then we pulled Willie onto the bed with us, stripped off his clothes and took turns sucking him. Willie came in Tim's mouth, and very soon thereafter we were all asleep.
I woke up sometime the next morning and found that I was alone in the room. I found a note indicating that Tim and Willie had gone diving. The note indicated that it had been written at 8:30 a.m. Tim was sleeping late!
Karen, Sara, Sally, Connie, Fred, Marty, and I had little to do for two days while Tim and Willie practiced. That first day we decided to be typical tourists, and actually took a bus tour of the city arranged through the hotel concierge. I won't bore you by listing the tourist attractions of the second biggest Australian city, but I will say that the tour was interesting and used up our time. At 5:30 we headed over to the university pool, thinking that Tim and Wille might be willing to call it quits for the day. We watched a little while and heard Larry, Billy, and Hardie explain to us that there was no doubt about their getting a medal, and they didn't mention the color only because they knew that Tim would be upset if they predicted a gold medal.
Billy and Hardie had a little powwow with their wives, Sara and Connie, and included Willie's wife, Sally. Then we were told that the divers and coaches had ordered in a meal, and the rest of us were on our own for dinner. It was very clear that the practice was intensive, and that additional people weren't needed. We left, walked to the hotel, and got taxis to a nice restaurant in town. Sara and Sally managed to get into one taxi with Fred and me, letting Karen, Connie and Marty in the other. Alone in the taxi, they explained what the powwow with their husbands had been all about–the night's sleeping arrangements. They were being a little secretive for Karen's sake. She and Larry weren't part of the Gang and weren't into the overnight "play" that the other couples were into. So Larry would come back to the hotel when they were done diving and join Karen in their room. For the rest, Sally, Sara, and Connie planned to keep me company, and Marty assured us all that he and Fred, after the previous night with Sally, were content to be alone. Tim and Willie would bunk together and Billy and Hardie would bunk together.
I know, what's a gay man supposed to do with three beautiful women, all delightfully younger than he? The answer is, of course, that unless he's pretty stupid, he'd do exactly what a straight man would do in that situation. And I did, except that as a gay man I was probably more inclined to be orally fixated rather than coitally fixated. Let's just say that we did some things that Tim and I are unable to do.
I have to share Billy's report on his night with Hardie. The sleeping arrangements hadn't been set by Hardie; they'd been Tim and Billy's doing. Hardie was both surprised and delighted to find himself paired with Billy, but also a little uncertain. When they were alone in the room he said, "Mr. Carson, I know we slept together at the Olympics four years ago, when Willie and I, and you and Tim, were diving together. It seemed natural to trade off, and I knew Willie wanted a couple of evenings with Tim. But I'm not diving this year, and, you know, you're my best friend's father and all...."
"What's this 'Mr. Carson' business?"
"Willie calls you, 'Dad,' most of his friends call you, 'Uncle Billy.' I know you've told me to call you, 'Billy,' and that usually isn't a problem. But when I start thinking about having sex, suddenly you become, 'Mr. Carson'."
"If you're uncomfortable having sex, Hardie, let's just sleep next to each other. But I'm perfectly comfortable to once again have a sexual relationship with you. You know, Hardie, you've meant a lot of my son. Without you, I don't think he would've made it to the Olympics."
"That's silly. Willie's a natural. He'd have made it."
"If he kept up with his diving. But if you and your mother hadn't opened your home and your hearts to Willie he wouldn't have made it to Iron River. And diving was not going to go well for Billy in Bloomington."
"Whatever I did for Willie, he did ten times as much for me. My diving would've ended with high school, and I would never have made it to college. No one else in my family has ever gone to college."
"You would have, Hardie."
"Just like Willie would've gone to the Olympics if he'd never met me."
"OK, you win that round. But what's the big deal about sex? I thought you pretty much bought into the sexual mores of the Gang."
"I guess I'm being silly. Somehow it feels like I'm treading where I shouldn't tread."
"Does Willie know you're here?"
"Does my wife, Sara?"
"Are they all comfortable with your being here?"
"But you aren't?"
"When you put it that way, I'm comfortable. Are you? Really, truly?"
"Yes, Hardie, I am. Just as I'm comfortable being fucked by my son. I don't feel we're violating any reasonable moral norm, though some people might think so. But a lot of people would think that your fucking Willie was also immoral, and I don't think it is; nor do you."
"What do you want to do tonight?"
"Hardie, you are a big, handsome young man. Give or take a Phil or a Franklin, you can handle me in a way that most of the men I know can't. I want you to take me and fuck the living shit out of me." As he said that he slipped off the last of his clothes–pants and underpants–and hugged Hardie. "Don't ask questions and don't be shy. Take me."
Hardie was a little taller, quite a bit heftier (but not fatter, neither seemed to have an extra ounce of fat), and twenty years younger than Billy. He took his cue and picked up Billy and tossed him on the bed and then stripped naked. He flopped square on top of Billy and kissed him deeply, then moved down his body, teasing and biting his nipples as he moved to his genitals. Tongue, teeth and lips fairly quickly generated a load of semen, which he rubbed into Billy's ass and onto his own dick. He raised Billy's legs, shoved his dick at Billy's asshole and drove it inside. As he pounded his full weight on Billy, Billy grabbed him around the neck and pulled their mouths together. Tongue fought tongue as dick pounded ass. Billy came a second time as Hardie's seed rushed into Billy. They both fell, spent, on the bed, side by side, facing each other. Hardie said, "And to think I almost turned down that opportunity. God, I haven't had an experience like that since my first time with Willie or Connie. Thank you, Billy."
"Hardie, neither Sara, nor Tim, nor Willie can do that. Thank you for not being afraid to use your strength and size."
"Willie can take that; I figured his dad could as well, and it seemed to be what you were asking for."
"Oh, yes, Hardie, it was. It was. Now let's sleep."
At just about noon the next day, the media found Tim and Billy diving at the pool. All of the rest of us were there to bring lunch to the divers and coaches and eat with them. We never found out who tipped them off, but about a dozen sports writers and an equal number of photographers showed up and wanted interviews and pictures.
Tim was pretty experienced dealing with the press, but this was a pretty aggressive lot, and none of his "friends" were there–since they got interviews and pictures simply by asking nicely. In fact, most of the media could get what they wanted from Tim by asking nicely. This lot was not asking nicely. Tim asked, "Who let you into the pool area?"
"It's a public university. They had to let us in. You don't have a legal right to privacy in this pool." That was from a sports photographer from the main Sydney newspaper. Tim assumed–correctly–that he had his facts straight.
"We have no obligation to answer any questions, nor to do any diving for your cameras."
"That's true. We'll just sit here and watch–and take pictures."
Tim said, "I'll tell you what. We're going to eat lunch for about a half and hour. Then we'll dive for about twenty minutes and let you get some good pictures. Then we'll answer a few questions. Then you all will leave. No agreement to that and we'll head to our hotel for lunch, and we won't see you again."
"You'll be back to practice this afternoon."
"Maybe, maybe not. Do we have a deal?"
Eventually all of them agreed. Tim said, "And you won't tell anyone else where we are; and you'll keep them out if they come."
"We can't legally do that."
"But I know you can accomplish it somehow, right?"
"Do we have a deal?"
He turned to the reporter for the Sydney newspaper, "What's your name?"
"Tell me straight, John. Can I trust this bunch, including you?"
The man looked around at the group and answered, "Yes, you can."
Tim took a big bite out of his roast beef sandwich and turned to Fred, "It looks like you brought enough to feed an army. Now that we have a reasonable deal, why don't you feed this crew?"
They all ate together. Tim said, to both his crowd and the reporters, "Remember people, this isn't off the record. Anything you say at lunch may be quoted and you may read it in print tomorrow." That set the ground rules for the lunch, and seemed to get everybody in a less confrontational mood.
Tim and Hardie put on a good show for the photographers, and then answered seemingly endless questions–but actually in less than an hour after lunch all the press were gone. As he left, John Horner said, "The university sports office closed at noon. I'll lock the pool door, and I won't put the key back till late tonight. That will keep you very private. I won't even have to break the law."
Tim laughed, and they closed the door.
We all stayed and watched that afternoon. We headed out for a nice dinner, and Billy, Larry, and Hardie decided that diving in the evening wasn't a good idea for Tim and Willie, who accepted their advice under protest.
That night Tim and Willie wanted me and Sally with them. There was no sex; we all just spooned together and went to sleep. I woke up to movement in the bed and found Tim and Willie doing 69, with Sally watching. I massaged Sally in interesting places while we watched, but Tim and Willie had the only orgasms. It was time to head for Sydney.
The jet we flew back in had been loaned to Fred by a friend of his from the advertising agency that handled the Fred's Sports account. It was quite luxurious and easily held our whole group. We had breakfast on the plane and got back to Sydney in plenty of time for the morning diving.
On the way back we learned the results of Tuesday's and Wednesday's cycling road races. It had originally been planned to put the course outside of Sydney, but that had been changed in favor of a course along the city streets in the north suburbs of Sydney. The same course was used by both men and women, the men going around 14 times for almost 240 kilometers, and the women going around only 7 times. It was a tough race with one very steep climb and several smaller ones. It went near the sea, along streets, and through a couple of parks. There were several difficult turns, including one at the bottom of one of the steep descents. Since the course was on city streets, there was little opportunity to practice on the actual course, which added to the difficulty.
The women's race was first, on Tuesday. Als had walked the course several times and had ridden it twice during organized practice times when they'd closed the course to traffic. She considered it a piece of cake, since she was used to riding with men competitors. It turned out that her living and racing in a man's world really paid off. She was bigger, stronger, and tougher than many of her female competitors, and left them in the dust on the steep climb–which the cyclists had to make seven times. What's more, she sailed down the hills seemingly without fear or common sense, and she hardly slowed for the one tough turn at the bottom. While most of the pack couldn't keep up, she wasn't a shoo-in. Two women, one from the Netherlands and the other from Lithuania were very close competitors. The three of them finished within one second of each other, Als taking the silver medal to the Dutch woman's gold.
The next day the men tackled the same course. JoJo and Jinx worked as a team, taking turns drafting the other. However, on the tenth circuit Jinx faded, and they no longer tried to stay together. They slowed slightly and joined the peloton until about a kilometer before the steep climb in the last circuit. Then JoJo broke out, along with several others, and headed for the hill. He was second when they reached the top, and he knew that the only real chance that he had to get to first place was the bad turn at the bottom of the next hill. It was very high risk behavior, but JoJo was a risk taker if anyone was, and he flew down that hill as if the bottom was a straightaway. The German in first place was aware of JoJo gaining and put on his own burst of speed. They hit the bottom with the German in the lead and JoJo right behind. All of a sudden the German couldn't hold the turn and slammed into the barrier, but out of JoJo's path. Somehow JoJo made it around the turn and his first place finish was never in doubt from that point on. The first thing out of his mouth when he crossed the finish line was, "Is 45 OK?" He didn't know the German's name, but he sure knew the number, having followed it a good part of the race.
"He broke his arm and got banged up a little, but he's going to be fine."
The next thing JoJo heard was, "That was the most insane downhill run I've seen in years. It's a miracle both of you aren't dead."
JoJo just smiled and said, "Dead or golden. It was going to be one or the other."
He reported that standing on the podium, listening to "The Star-Spangled Banner," was, indeed, golden. Jinx finished 28th, close to the front of the peloton. When you consider that 254 racers had started the race and only 92 even finished, 28th didn't look so bad. He was the second American finisher.
And so the Marauders, that improbable bunch from Eugene, via Grand Forks, had a gold and a silver Olympic medal. They celebrated all night, and about 4:00 a.m. they all crowded into one big bed to sleep the next day. However, at 8:30 Marty insisted that they all get up, have breakfast, and watch what Fred was calling the North Dakota Grande Finale–Tim and Willie from the tandem springboards.
Tim, Willie, Sally, Larry, and I helicoptered from the airport to the Olympic Park and walked to the Aquatic Center for our big show. Tim turned to Willie and asked, "Ready?"
"Ready, Uncle Tim. I've been ready for this for years. I hope we win a medal; I think we can. But diving with you has been one of the highlights of my life. No matter how it turns out, thank you."
"I can't say that, Willie. I'll have to admit that the dream come true for me in these Olympics was standing on the podium with Charlie. But this is a close second."
"I understand that, Uncle Tim. It was really special to see you and Uncle Charlie mount the high podium. I had tears in my eyes when 'The Star-Spangled Banner' played. Now let's go knock 'em dead."
The arguments over whether Billy and Willie were better than Tim and Willie still rage. There was no arguing over whether anyone else came close. Gone were any questions about whether Willie could simultaneously partner with two different divers. Age became irrelevant as people realized that Tim and Willie were a little more than twenty-five years apart in age.
Two American divers that had competed against Tim and Willie in the US Trials, and were competing individually in Sydney, came up to Tim and Willie and said, "We'll never have to apologize for not beating you guys in the Trials. You guys are the best the world has seen."
Willie responded, "Thanks, but you're forgetting my father and Tim four years ago in Atlanta. They remain the best."
One of the young men responded, "Willie, don't sell yourself short. You may be the greatest diver ever to have competed in the Olympics. I'm just in awe. You've gotten two or three gold medals in three consecutive Olympics, and a silver the Olympics before that. After you beat us at the Trials I looked up your record. I certainly didn't need to be embarrassed to have been beaten by you. I'm just glad you weren't competing for individual gold as well."
Tim looked at Willie and said, "I think this young man's correct, Willie. I like the way he put it, 'You may be the greatest diver ever to have competed in the Olympics.' I like the sound of that." He turned to the young man and asked, "What's your name?"
"Charlie Thompson, sir."
"Charlie. I like that name. And, Charlie, even if I'm decades older than you, we're both equal competitors here, and there's no need for, 'Sir,' Now why don't you and your partner join us for dinner at our hotel–the Radisson–so we can get to know you and you can get to know us better. There will be a number of medalists from previous Olympics there that I think you'd enjoy meeting."
"We couldn't do that, it would be intruding."
"If it were intruding, I wouldn't have asked you. Now, the two of you, be there. Six o'clock. That's an order."
"OK, sir. Oh, I mean, OK, Tim."
Assuming that Tim and Willie would own at least a bronze medal by dinnertime, Fred had engaged a large banquet hall at the Radisson and was hosting his whole troupe, and numerous others that he'd been inviting all week. The tables were set for 250, and almost every seat was filled. Tim made sure that Charlie Thompson and his diving partner were at a table with Hal and Fyn and Arnie. Tim got a chance to talk with them a little, but he and Willie and I were being cornered by everyone. I'm not sure that we ever ate. Fred allowed no speeches, but he did introduce all of the North Dakota winners. It was an impressive lot:
[4th Place--Floor Exercises]
Silver–Uneven Parallel Bars
Gold–Springboard Synchronized Diving
Gold–Platform Synchronized Diving
Gold–Platform Synchronized Diving
Tim–Diving and Sailing
Gold–Springboard Synchronized Diving
[4th Place–200 m. backstroke]
[28th Place--Road Race]
Gold: 5 medals; 8 individual medals (i.e. 1 49er medal meant 2 individuals got gold medals)
Silver: 5 medals; 6 individual medals
Bronze: 5 medals; 6 individual medals
Are you impressed? Well, we were. Much more importantly, the media went nuts over those numbers. I have to add this, and the press certainly didn't miss it: If North Dakota had been a country, it would've ranked 17 in the medal count, whether you counted total medals or ranked gold first–the usual method.
Tim's 19th Sports Illustrated cover (Auggie was the photographer). His second, and my first, and Willie's first, Time Magazine cover and feature story (Mike was the photographer). There was no keeping track of the rest of the press coverage, nor of the TV appearances, the White House visit....
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