Finding Tim

by Charlie

Episode 235 - PyeongChang

While Tim had the minor distraction of trying to act like the president of a university, it wasn't possible for the Olympics to control his life. Freed from the burdens of university leadership, his mind was almost laser focused on the next Olympic Games. And now that he'd discovered that there were winter games as well as summer games (OK, he knew about the winter games when he was in high school, but didn't pay much attention to them) his focal point was never more than two years away. Since the buildup to the games, including all the Trials, begins at least a year ahead of the Games, that meant he was never aiming more than a year ahead.

We'd hardly gotten home from Rio when Tim invited Shel and Brian for dinner, specifically to quiz them about skaters that might be headed to PyeongChang, Korea. We all sort of came to the conclusion that PyeongChang, Korea, was too much of a mouthful and usually just talked about heading for Korea. Tim started it out with, "Will either of you two be skating in Korea? You could battle it out between you as to who gets silver and who gets gold."

"I retired after Sochi, Uncle Tim," was Shel's reply.

Brian answered, "And I retired long before that."

Tim said, "Yeah, and I retired after Montreal. Then there was Sydney. And then there was Athens. Retiring doesn't mean much around here. Just ask Hal."

After a short silence, Tim continued, "I wish they had male doubles; I would really love to see you two as a team."

Brian said, "That could bring both of us out of retirement, but you know it isn't going to happen."

Tim continued, "A gold/silver duel would be fantastic."

Shel asked, "Are you really serious about this, Uncle Tim?"

"Well, I got pushed pretty hard in that 'Stake Your Claim' business. I suspect you two were part of that in some way."

Brian said, "I'm ten years into retirement. I haven't kept up like you did, Uncle Tim. Shel could could compete for gold; I don't think there's anybody in the world that can touch him, but I'm out of the picture."

Shel said, "Brian, that's bullshit, and you know it. In a year you could be as good as you ever were."

"And that was never as good as you. Uncle Tim, while Shel was walking away with gold, I'd be lucky to qualify. If I qualified, I'd never make the finals."

Shel said, "Bullshit."

Tim asked, "Charlie, what do you think?"

I said, "I'm not sure. A gold/silver battle coming out of the Fred would be spectacular. But I know what ten years out of practice can do to an athlete. Ten years after Munich I couldn't have thought about competeing for any medal, much less gold. The problem is, not only do your skills wither away, but the level of competition keeps on going up. Shel did figures that Brian never did, and probably could never do. A couple of them were so difficult that nobody in Korea's going to do them. I doubt very much we'll see a quad Axel in Korea and certainly not a quint."

Author's Note: As of this writing only in fiction has the quad Axel been done in competition.

"And you can bet your bottom dollar that I'm never going to accomplish them," said Brian.

Shel said, "I doubt that I'd try a quint again in competition. I got real lucky once, I'd hate to try again and fall on my ass. That's no way to end a career. And that, Uncle Tim, just about wraps up the answer to your opening question. Brian and I will not be competing in Korea."

Tim said, "I didn't think so. But you needed to know that you would've been supported. And, who knows, you two might've gotten a couple of medals."

Brian said, "Probably one, not two."

Shel said, "The point is I made the utterly foolish attempt at the quint in Sochi because I was retiring, and I wanted to go out with a spectacular finish. If I'd fallen on my ass, I would've still gotten the gold, but we might be standing here talking about whether I was going to attempt a quint again in Korea. But I did it once in competition, and I fully expect to leave it at that."

Brian said, "And he did it on the biggest stage that figure skating ever gets. What a retirement. And I agree; he should stand on that finish."

Tim went right on with the conversation, "OK, who does the Fred have to compete in Korea? Can the Fred hold onto the gold medal for a seventh Olympiad?"

Shel said, "Probably not. On, Hell, certainly not. We have two male figure skaters that're pretty good, and will certainly qualify for the Olympic Trials. One or both of them might make it, but just barely. Of course, if you're good enough to qualify in the U,S., it's likely that you'll be in medal contention, or at least Victory Diploma contention, at the Games."

Tim asked, "Who are these kids?"

"The older is Tommy Fitzwilliam, a junior at the university. He was pretty good when he arrived here. He skated while he was in high school in Ann Arbor. His father is some kind of a professor at the University of Michigan. He's dedicated, works hard, and has been steadily improving. Olympics in his future? Maybe."

"How come I don't know him?"

I said, "Tim you spend a lot of time in the natatorium, the Cave, and NTAC, but you'll have to admit that the winter sports are not your highest priority."

"Still, I get to the Fred. I'll bet I know the other kid. His name's Fisher, isn' it. As in the first name is Fisher, right?"

Shel said, "That's right, Fisher Robbins. He's a freshman at the university, but he came here right after the Sochi Olympics. He's from Helena, Montana, but his father had a good friend on the UND faculty, whom he stayed with in high school. A demon on the ice; works his butt off every day. Fisher is our best shot at a figure skating medal in Korea. How do you know him?"

Tim said, "His host here in Grand Forks is Professor Isaac Brody, in the Biology Department. He introduced me to Fisher, a very nice young man. I've watched him skate a few times. I guess I've seen this Tommy Fitzwilliam as well, but I haven't met him."

I asked, "Any other figure skaters? Women, pairs, dancers?"

Shel said, "We've got them all, and some are pretty good. I think we'll be decently represented at the Trials. Don't know whether any of the others will make it to Korea."

Brian put in, "We've got a bunch of racers. We start with Norman Shaller, the only skater from Sochi that'll be trying to make it back to the Olympics in Korea. He's long track and came home with a bronze medal from Sochi. His speeds are great; I think he'll medal again in Korea. Might be able to change the color."

Shel added, "None of The Icehouse bunch will be skating; they're all happily retired and having fun in their joint law office. But we have a couple of women and one guy other than Norman that'll be heading to the Trials. No promises about getting further."

I asked, "Short track?"

"I'd love to have Marco and Sean back; they were such great kids, and great skaters."

Tim said, "I was really proud of them in Sochi. They didn't make any finals, but were content to just be Olympians."

I said, "Says the guy who's never missed getting into the finals in anything. Tim, do you really think you could've been content just being an Olympian?"

"If I don't say, 'Yes,' to that, I'd being denying everything I've been preaching for so many decades. So, I'll say, 'Yes, I hope so.' I'll have to admit that I am very glad that I was never tested, but I do think I would've passed the test."

Brian said, "We don't have Sean and Marco, but they've been around the rink helping a couple of other skaters, Juan Neustro and Fritz Gammon. Juan's originally from Mexico, but he's lived here most of his life."

Tim asked, "What's his citizenship?"

Brian said, "Mexican. If he meets the qualification standard, he'll be the first Mexican Olympic ice skater, I think. In the past their team has consisted of one alpine skier, a guy who's been around forever."

Tim said, "Perry and Andy would love to add a new nationality to the athletes that come under the wing of Fred's Sports. Fred would've loved it. How good is he?"

Brian said, "He's good. Certainly good enough to qualify. But getting all of the paperwork done in Mexico for them to enter a skater is problematic. If we can get that behind us, then he'll be an Olympian."

Tim said, "I know just who to put onto that: Junior and Louise. In the period leading up to the Sydney Games, Junior worked for the USOC visiting national sports federations. Louise went with him, represented Fred's Sports. Together they became very familiar with the administration of the Olympics and the politics involved. Naturally they don't know anybody in Mexico, but I am sure that they know people that know people in Mexico, and that's the way things get done in this world, especially in the so-called Third World."

So Shel talked to Junior and Louise and they agreed to do their homework and find out what would be involved to allow Juan to skate for Mexico in the Games in Korea. (It turned out to not be that difficult because Mexico [1] had already participated in the winter Games and [2] had a small skating federation that was delighted to sponsor a Mexican skater that had his own financing [i.e. Fred's Sports]).

Gregor wasn't as enthusiastic about his dance couple as Shel was his male figure skaters. Irene and Dan Costen, a brother and sister team, were the best ice dancers at the Fred. Gregor had them competing in competitions that could lead to an invitation to the Trials, if they did well. They worked hard, took coaching well, but he feared that they simply didn't have the raw talent that Lew and Janey or Jack and Janie had started with. Gregor was quite willing to be fooled, however, and he worked as hard with Irene and Dan as he had with previous pairs. Who knew how the Trials would turn out?

Regrettably the rest of the women skaters and the pairs were not good enough to have a realistic chance of getting to the Trials.

Shel reported that Norman Shaller led a group of four long track racers that worked out every day. The four, Norman, Rod, Ginny, and Luce, became good friends and raced together and did pretty much everything else together. They raced at different distances, so that while there was friendly competition among them, there were no head to head, I win, you lose, pairings. Their coach was confident that Norman would make it to Korea and do well, and had high hopes for the rest at the Trials.

Tim concluded the conversation with Shel and Brian, "So that's it. Not as spectacular a lineup as we've sometimes had, but we'll be well represented."

I said, "I expect you'll be seeing more of Tim at the Fred in the coming months." And that was, of course, very true.

Not that Tim played favorites–his favorites were everybody even remotely connected to North Dakota who had the remotest chance of becoming an Olympian–but he did get particularly close to two of the skaters: Fisher Robbins and Juan Neustro. In Fisher's case the connection was through Professor Brody. In Juan's case, Tim was drawn to Juan by the fact that he was one of the few Latino students at the university.

Juan had come to the University of North Dakota specifically because of the Fred. He'd skated in high school and had ambitions of becoming a really good skater and saw the Fred as an opportunity. Coming from Texas, he didn't realize how important a solid Mexican (or more broadly, Latino) community was until he found himself without one. Luckily, the people at the Fred quickly became his community, but they didn't speak Spanish, didn't cook Mexican–not even Tex-Mex, and didn't really understand life as a minority in America. Luckily, Juan had come to the U.S. when he was only eight, so that his English was almost without any accent.

Through Tim, Juan and Fisher became good friends, and very much became each other's "support group." Those quotation marks highlight the idea of a group of one; they do not suggest anything else! In fact, both boys were very much hetero and each had a serious girlfriend. Fisher's girl was June Collins, a girl he'd known back home in Helena. They were separated when Fisher came to Grand Forks for his last year of high school, but she followed a year later. Juan got to know June's roommate, Nan Bunker, and the four of them became rather close friends. And given the known purient interests of my readers, I'll have to confess that I have no idea about any sexual goings on among them.

Fisher and his fellow figure skater, Tommy Fitzwilliam, spent as much time on the ice with Shel as they could. Both drooled over the idea of a quad Axel, but Shel insisted that their job was to master the easier triples and, if possible, the triple Axel, and get at least two quads down pat. He told them, "Those are the baseline for a medal in Korea. There'll be very few that attempt anything beyond that, and the vast majority of the skaters in Korea won't have reached that level. Oh, they'll be able to do those figures, but not with grace, consistency, and confidence. You two want to go to Korea with those figures under your belt, always with grace, consistency, and confidence. That means going out there and doing quads without even thinking about missing or falling. It means doing the triple Axel so many times it gets boring. And at that stage we'll talk about a quad."

Shel as a taskmaster made Tim look like a wimp! Like Tim, he demanded less of his athletes than he'd demanded of himself, having spent years and years in intense training at the Fred. It had paid off, and Tommy and Fisher realized that what Shel demanded of them was exactly what it would take to get to Korea and to win in Korea. They willingly kept up with his demands. And it paid off; they got better and better, until Shel was begining to see the possibility of medals in their future.

The skating Trials came at last. The first was short track speed skating, December 15–17, 2017, in Salt Lake City. Fritz Gammon was our only entrant, and he qualified for the 500 meter race. Quite frankly, it was a surprise to everyone that he earned the trip to Korea, a surprise to him as well as everyone else. He got very lucky in his final race, and two skaters that should've beaten him got disqualified. We'd seen North Dakota skaters get disqualified and their hopes dashed in seconds, so we didn't feel badly that it'd gone in Fritz' favor! That's the nature of the sport.

Figure skating and long track speed skating were next, and at the same time. Long track would be in Milwaukee, January 2-7. Figure skating would be at the US National Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, January 3-7. We had to arrange two different support groups! I headed the group going to San Jose, along with Shel, Brian, coaches, Andy, and others too numerous to mention. Tim headed the group going to Milwaukee, along with the Ice House bunch (now retired but still skating at the Fred), Perry, coaches, and others too numerous to mention.

Three of our long track racers made the U.S. team and would be racing in Korea: Norman Shaller, Rod Betterman, and Ginny Laury. Our fourth hopeful, Luce Baker, didn't quite make the team, though she did quite well in her races. Norman would be in the men's 10,000 meters and the team pursuit. Rod would be in the men's 1,000 meters. Ginny would be in the women's 5,000 meters.

OK, this is Charlie entering his editorial opinion regarding the selection of figure skaters for the U.S. team. It was understood that the Trials were the US Championships, but final selection would be based on results in the Championships and previous performances. In other words, it would be subjective. There was a good correlation between the winners at the championships and the team selection, but one of the three men going to Korea wasn't in the top three in the championships, and the second place ice dancers didn't go, but the third place ice dancers did. Tim tells me to get off my high horse, but he also admits that he agrees with me that this is not the fair way to select Olympians.

It was too much to hope that both Tommy and Fisher would be in the top three. I know that Tim was disappointed that Fisher didn't make it, but he claimed a very respectable seventh place in the championships. Tommy Fitzwilliam did make it. He was third in the championships, and did get picked for the Olympic Team. Our other hope was our ice dancers, but they had to settle for an eleventh place finish at the championships. While it dashed their Olympic dreams, they both had realized that their Olympic dreams were unlikely to come true. They were happy to finish their skating careers with a high finish in the national championships.

I should also note than Juan Nuestro, a leading skater at the Fred, would be representing Mexico. He'd be a short track racer at 500 and 1,000 meters.

In one month we'd be in Korea for the opening ceremony on February 9, 2018. Perry'd been to Korea eighteen months ahead to make arrangements for the Fred's Sports contingent of close to 250 folks. He reported back to Andy, "It's amazing the cooperation you get from the Tourist Bureau when you start talking about needing 100 rooms, and feeding 250 people three meals a day. That's big bucks, even in Olympic season. Hell, Andy, we'll be bringing as many people as NBC sports. In any case, three first class hotels were very eager for our business. The one I chose was locally owned and operated, we could get the whole hotel if we were willing to take 122 rooms, and they were delighted to offer the twenty-four hour buffet. The hotel bill will be about $650,000. They have a few reservations that they'll have to cancel by getting them rooms elsewhere. They figure that that will cost them a couple of thousand dollars, and they're going to eat that. They're hoping to have a nice bar tab as well, but we warned them not to expect it, and that all alcoholic drinks had to be paid by the individual guests–not charged to the room. The buffet will include unlimited soft drinks in their bar. They'd be full for these three weeks regardless, but they're planning to make a killing on the buffet. I hope they do. And I hope it's as good as they promised. I did eat several meals in their dining room, and they were delicious."

I'll just note here that the rooms were very nice, the hotel very accommodating and the buffet fantastic. On one side of the dining room was an American buffet that any nice restaurant in the U.S. would be proud of. On the other side of the room was an Asian buffet, featuring Korean food, but also the cuisine of Japan and several areas of China. Breakfast started to appear about three in the morning and was slowly replaced by lunch between ten and eleven. Dinner main dishes started to appear about four in the afternoon, and as the evening wore on it became snacks and desserts through the night. Regardless of the time, there was always a rib roast being cut. We ate like kings.

But you want to know about the athletics, don't you?. And perhaps the sex? However, we'll start with the more mundane.

First, PyeongChang isn't a city, but a region, equivalent to a county in the U.S. It's unusual camelback spelling (capital C in the middle) was created for the Olympics to clearly differentiate it from a similarly spelled city in North Korea. One doesn't fly to PyeongChang, rather one flies to Seoul and takes a high speed train to PyeongChang.

The Opening Ceremony took place in the PyeongChang Olympic Plaza. It's simply not true that if you've seen one Olympic Opening Ceremony you've seen them all. Each is unique. And for the vast number of athletes at an Opening Ceremony it's the first, and probably the last, they'll see in person in their lifetimes. Tim and I had seen a lot, and a lot of those were from the point of view of a marching athlete, not a fan in the stands. But this year neither of us was competing, so were were in the stands with a huge group invited by Fred's Sports, i.e. Andy and Perry. The group always included some Fred's Sports employees and spouses who were being recognized for exceptional service–this year there were seventeen of them, including three from Grand Forks. Of course, that doesn't count the Fred's Sports employees that were part of the Gang or the Olympics-related invitees.

The Opening Ceremony, in addition to the usual music, cultural demonstrations, and speeches, had–for us and for many around the world–one great symbolism: A single Korean team composed of South and North Koreans. They shared in the torch ceremony, marched as a single team–last in the Parade of Nations (as is always true of the host country), and shared carrying the flag. A show of 1,200 coordinated drones, showing Olympic sports and ultimately the Olympic Rings, was cancelled at the last minute. However, television audiences were shown a rehearsal recorded the previous December, when they set a Guiness World Record for the largest number of coordinated drones flying together.

All of the skating events took place in Gangneung Olympic Park. In addition to a hockey rink, skating ovals, and a curling center, the Park contained restaurants, cultural exhibits, and tourist support. It was easy to spend the whole day there when only a little time was spent in actually watching skating.

As Tim and I were heading to bed about two days before the Opening Ceremony Tim was speculating on how well our North Dakotans would do in theses Olympics. "You know, Charlie, we don't have the spectacular team that we've had in previous Olympics. There's no Brian or Shel, no Janey and Lew or Janie and Jack. The impact of the Fred is slight compared to what the Cave has produced some Olympiads."

"I know, Tim, but we've got four really fine young folks, three men and one women. Plus, we'll be taking credit for Juan as well."

"Juan may be our best chance for a medal. Oh, I do hope that one of our Americans medals. It would appear that our best chances are Norman Shaller and Ginny Laury, but neither of them is a shoo-in."

"Tim, are you a little disappointed by our prospects this time around?"

"I guess I am."

"Tim, just because a couple of times North Dakota has gotten medals as if it were a middle sized country, it isn't a middle sized country. Beginning with you, and continuing with a whole host of athletes that you have inspired, North Dakota has had spectacular success. But for a state with a population of less than a million, actually only about three-quarters of a million, to have five participants in these Olympics is quite spectacular. Do the math: there are 241 Americans competing, that's less than one for every million Americans. North Dakota should have about a half of one competitor. It has six counting one Mexican, whom we certainly claim. It's really quite spectacular. I could also point out that half of the Mexican team trains at the Fred.

"Look at it another way. I would guess that the U.S. willl get about twenty medals, maybe a few more. I think we might very well get two, maybe three. That'd mean that a state with well under 1/300th of the population has a good chance at geting 1/10th of the medals. And you're disappointed?"

"OK, Charlie, you're right. I guess the Shels and the Auggies of my world give me a very skewed view of the real world."

"You can add yourself to that list, probably at the head of it."

"Well, we've got six Olympians to love and support. We know that love and support can work miracles. We also know how important love and support are when miracles don't happen. We need to be ready for either, Charlie."

We had a little of both and I think we were ready.

First up was Juan Nuestro in the 1,000 meter short track race on Tuesday, February 13th. He made it into the final which was scheduled for Saturday. He skated three great races in the preliminary heats, coming in second three times, but there was nothing special, spectacular, nor controversial about the races. I am going to jump ahead to Saturday evening for the final in the 1,000 meter. After two false starts caused by other skaters, Juan got off to a very good start and was in second place for most of the race. In the final lap he was passed by a South Korean skater who'd beaten him in the semifinals. It looked like he had the bronze medal sewn up, when the lead skater, who was being challenged by the South Korean that had passed Juan, slipped on the final turn, hit the wall, and was out of the race. Juan easily held on for the silver medal. He was right behind the South Korean, just as in his semifinal. It wasn't an American medal, but by God Tim claimed it for North Dakota!. There weren't a lot of Mexicans in the audience, but those that were there went crazy as the silver medal was placed around Juan's neck–Mexico's first medal at a winter Olympics!

On Wednesday it was Rod's turn: the men's 1,000 meter long track race. Long track races involve two skaters at a time around the oval, trading inside track to outside track with each lap. Winners are determined by times–so each skater only skates once. Rod put in a very good time, I think it was a personal best for him. It didn't get him a medal, but the fourth place Victory Diploma will always have a place of honor in his home. He hadn't expected to do that well, and he was all bubbly with excitement as the times were posted, and his remained very high on the list. Athletes who are happy and excited over placing less that best get huge hugs from Tim, and Rod was no exception.

The next day brought us back to long track to watch Norman Shaller compete in the 10,000 meter race. Norman was our only repeat Olympian, having competed in Sochi in the 1,000 meter race. In Sochi he hadn't competed in the 10,000 meter because Ivan had beaten him out. In Korea he led the U.S. field in the 10,000 meter. And he did well. He got a bronze medal, the same color he'd gotten in Sochi in the 1,000. He might've been disappointed; he certainly had had hopes of either a silver or gold. But in his heart I think he knew he wasn't really that good. He was quite pleased with a bronze, listened to the Dutch national anthem, congratulated the silver and gold medalists, smiled for the cameras, and gratefully received hugs and kisses from Tim, his parents, and a lot of the rest of the Gang. He had another race, the team pursuit, but that was three days away on Sunday.

Figuring skating. Thursday and Friday. As far as Shel was concerned this was all that counted; that's true for a lot of the American audience. For grace and beauty only diving can touch it, and Olympic diving was two years away. Tommy Fitzwilliam was our man. He had just made it to Korea, coming in third in the Trials. But as Shel had pointed out, third in the U.S. Trials comes close to putting you in medal contention. His short program was on Friday morning. It's unusual for figure skating to be in the morning, but morning in Korea is prime time in America, and NBC dollars wield a lot of influence. The odd time put off some skaters, but Tommy didn't seem to be bothered. He pointed out that practice at the Fred started between 8:00 and 9:00 in the morning, and you got really weird looks from Shel if you got there much past 8:00 a.m.

Tommy turned in a perfectly delightful short program, including three quad jumps and truly spectacular spins–his specialty. His score was third, but fourth place was so close you really had to consider it a tie. The scores were close enough that he had a chance of moving up to second, and a greater chance of moving down to fourth. The Canadian in fifth was in striking distance as well. And then there was Nathan Chen, the American master of the quadruple jump. He placed a disappointing seventeenth in the short program, but couldn't be counted out. It would all come down to the long program the next morning.

At seventeenth, Nathan Chen wasn't in the final group of skaters in the long program. So his spectacular long program, containing six quad jumps, and commanding an astounding score, was on everybody's mind as the final group of skaters warmed up on the ice. Tommy would skate second, and the pressure was on for quad jumps. Tommy wasn't in Chen's class, but he did very well with quads, having been well coached, and coaxed, by Shel.

Chen had done six quads, including five different jumps–he didn't attempt the quad Axel, which only had been done by Shel in competition. Tommy did four quads, all different jumps: toe loop, flip, Salchow, and Lutz–the toe loop in combination with a triple toe loop. That, plus his spectacular spins gave him a score almost as high as Chen's. However, with Chen's bad showing in the short program, he was quickly out of medal contention. Luckily Tommy was a dreamer, but a realistic one. He simply wasn't the best skater and only managed to hold onto his third place finish. A bronze medal is nothing to be ashamed of. He told Tim later, "You know, you always say that unless your opponents do their best, then you may not have earned your medal. That's true in my case. Nathan Chen is a better skater than I am, and he came in fifth, because he screwed up his short program. I'll always have to remember that my medal is a gift from Nathan Chen."

Tim replied, "That's true, and I admire you for thinking it and saying it. But it's also true that you're judged by the performance at hand, and yours was better than Chen's. Congratulations."

Friday evening, following Tommy's wonderful performance in the morning, Ginny Laury turned in the performance of her lifetime in the 5,000 meter long track race. It wasn't just a personal best, it was a quantum leap ahead, and it earned her a gold medal. She told Shel afterwards, "You know, there wasn't another girl from North Dakota at these Games, so I was rooming with Karen Wallers, the biathloner. She turned out to be a wonderful roommate. There was no sex, but she was so supportive, so friendly, so loving. We became like best friends almost immediately. I really give her a lot of credit for my success. And she did well in the biathlon, getting a Victory Diploma. She's from Colorado–some small ski resort town–and I really hope that we can keep in touch."

Shel said, "Tell Tim, he swears by love and support and delights in stories like that. So do I."

Next up, but quickly down, was the long track team pursuit. Norman was part of the U.S. Team, but they got knocked out in their first race. The time that counts is the last (third) man to finish. Norman was second, and that made him feel a little better about the loss. He quickly pointed out that there wasn't, to his knowledge, any finger pointing at the number three man. It was a team effort and they lost together.

Tuesday of the second week brought the last event featuring any of the Fred skaters. It was the short track 500 meter race–a fast, exciting, and often quite spectacular race. Juan and Fritz were both entered, but they never skated against each other in any of the heats. Juan was out in his quarter-final heat. Fritz hung in there and made it to the finals which would be on Thursday.

Juan was Fritz' greatest fan, both in the preliminary heats and as Fritz went into the finals. In the 500 meter race the skaters go around the oval for four complete loops and then about another 50 meters on the straight track. Coming around the third lap Fritz was in third place and being challenged on the outside by the fourth place skater. Feeling the pressure of a skater about to pass him, he put on a burst of speed, but he was unable to hold the curve as they went into the corner. He slipped, hit the wall, was out of the race, but thankfully uninjured. He was quite philosophical about the whole thing. He told us, "Well, I got to come to Korea because two skaters ahead of me in the trials got disqualified. My fall let some skater get a bronze medal that he might not have gotten if I hadn't fallen." In any case, he got a sixth place Victory Diploma.

And so ended the adventures of the Gang and the skaters of the Fred at the 2018 Winter Olmypics at PyeongChang, Korea. Including Juan, the six Olympians from the Fred had won four medals: a gold, a silver, and two bronze. I know that Tim could've been happier, but you would never have known it from his behavior in Korea–or after we came home. I know it, because at pillow talk time he doesn't keep anything back from me. Tim has a dream that the Fred will dominate skating like the Cave once dominated gymnastics. Neither he, nor I, think that that's a realistic dream. But dreams don't have to be realistic to be enjoyable.

Mabel and Natalie, both about seven months pregnant and clearly showing, were part of the Fred's Sports delegation to PyeongChang. Thus far nothing had been said publically about who the fathers might be. I think everyone just supposed, as the insiders had hoped, that the fathers were anonymous sperm donors–probably medical students. The two girls, the two fathers, and I–sort of a God-father, I guess–got together at some point during the Games and discussed who was going to be told the real story, and when they were going to be told. Tim started it off: "There are about 140 Gang members out there. We either tell them all or we have to limit ourselves to a very restricted number. With the ethos in the Gang being that nothing is secret within the Gang, I think it'd be hard to limit ourselves to some kind of subset. The question is, if we tell over a hundred people, will it remain a secret? And does it need to remain a secret?"

Mabel answered: "You have a lot of faith in the Gang; this is sort of the acid test. If 140 people can really keep a secret, then the Gang really is special."

Natalie said, "I think the question really is, 'What are the consequences if our babies' parentages become more widely known?"

I said, "Well, the question is purely reputational. The only one of the group that is married is Tim, and the question of what is adultery where there's a same-sex marriage hasn't ever been considered by a court, and isn't likely to be. Adultery is a matter of civil law, and I'm certainly not going to be suing Tim over an adulterous relationship! As to reputations? I think reputations might be more enhanced than harmed by public disclosure. And that brings you two girls to another issue: What is going in the 'Father' blank on the birth certificates? You can get away with 'anonymous' or 'unknown,' or you can put in the name. Birth certificates are public, but you girls aren't yet newsworthy and I don't think anybody is goinig to be looking. But if Tim's name is there, particularly since the lack of a surname will cause someone to look twice, it's likely that somebody will blab–it wouldn't be illegal, birth certificates are public documents. As soon as Tim's name is given to the press it's going to be all over a whole lot of sports pages. It's very likely that Max and Mabel could fly under the radar."

Mabel put in, "OK, when we first talked about this we said we'd limit the story to the Gang. We didn't even think about birth certificates. By the way, Max, what does your birth certificate say?"

Max replied, "It lies. Remember, the situation was different. My mother was married to a man, and his name is on the birth certificate as the father. Blood tests, or maybe it would take DNA testing, could disprove that, but that what the public record shows. Merle is quite comfortable with the Gang knowing my parentage, and he's comfortable with me having a relationship with my biological father. But neither of you is married to a man. The only alternative to naming the father is to use anonymous, unknown, or leave it blank. I have no idea what the law would allow."

Mabel said, "So even if your name, Max, is on my kid's birth certificate, the public record doesn't go back to Tim."

"No, it doesn't."

Mabel said, "I don't know whether that makes any difference. But what if my daughter is a diving champion, and would like to point out that she is the granddaughter of Tim? She'd get laughed at. Yet, it'd certainly be of as much interest to people as the fact that Liam and Willie both descend from Billy Carson."

I said, "I can think of two solutions. First, we could get Max's birth certificate amended. I don't think that would take more than affidavits from Tina, Merle, and Tim. We could also present DNA evidence. But that would be pretty public. Alternatively, we could simply collect those affidavits, the DNA evidence, and I think we should add the medical report that Merle couldn't father a child. That could be put in a sealed envelope and given to Mabel to share with her daughter–is it a girl?"....

"Yes, it is. We haven't told anyone before now."

..."to share with her daughter when the time is appropriate."

Natalie said, "We seem to be coming to the conclusion that the birth certificates should list the fathers' names. I think I agree with that."

Mabel said, "So do I."

Max said, "So then we get to the question of who do we tell, and when."

I said, "That leads immediately to stories about Tim having a child–is it a boy or girl?"

"A boy."

"So we have stories about Tim's son, but nothing about a granddaughter."

Max said, "Any story about a granddaughter would involve publically announcing that I am not Merle's son. I wouldn't do that to Merle while he was alive. What the young lady chooses to do after Merle is gone won't bother me, and I don't think it would bother Tina."

Tim summed up, "So we've come to putting the real names on both birth certificates, let the publicity chips fall as they may, and don't talk publically about Max's parentage. It's very likely that nobody outside the Gang will pay any attention to the facts on his daughter's birth certificate. My son will probably be newsworthy, but who knows if the right person will see my son's birth certificate and tell the right people."

Tim was very quiet for a minute and then said, "My son. I can't believe I am actually saying that. And my granddaughter. Oh my God, it's a dream come true. No, that isn't right. I never even dreamed this. It's, it's, it's–well I guess it's a dream come true, even if I never really dreamed it. I love you all. You've given me a fantastic gift."

Natialie said, "Tim, you've given me and our son a fantastic gift–life itself. And Max, you've given Mabel and your daughter the same gift–life itself."

I said, "OK, we're going to tell the Gang and not the world–the world will have to figure it out for itself. When do we tell the Gang? I think the reason we're having this discussion now is that the entire Gang is here in Korea and it'd be the perfect time to make an announcement. How about we ask Perry to host a dinner for the Gang somewhere and sometime before we leave?"

Everyone agreed.

As did Perry when he heard the news. His first comment was, "You expect me to keep this secret until the big dinner? Can I even tell Norman?"

"Yes, you can tell Norman, but swear him to secrecy."

Perry's plan for the big dinner blew us away. It was quickly arranged that the charter flight home would stop in Hawaii. It'd let off the Gang and take the rest back to the continental United States. The Gang would have two nights in Honolulu, with the big dinner scheduled in some venue for the second evening. The next morning another charter flight would take us home.

Mabel asked Perry, "Do you have any idea what that'll cost?"

Perry replied, "You're new to the Gang, aren't you? In the Gang we never worry about costs. That was Fred's gift to the Gang, and right now he's up in heaven looking down and smiling. He might've proposed a week in Hawaii, with the big dinner on one of the smaller, more beautiful islands."

The announcement, when it came in Honolulu, was met with a pronounced silence while the facts of the situation sunk in. Then there was a cheer, then raucous cheering. On a signal from Perry waiters appeared with open, cold bottles of Coke. When they were distributed I proposed a toast: "To the fathers, the mothers, and the expected son and daughter. May their lives reflect their parentage!"

Backs were pounded, the two mothers congratulated so often they didn't even try to keep track, Max was celebrated, and Tim lifted on a half-dozen shoulders and paraded around the room like a football hero. We finally settled down and ate dessert. The subject of bedtime conversation set for the night, we all headed for our rooms. I got to sleep with Tim, and we had a wonderful night, doing exactly what you might expect: we curled together as his ass wiggled and my hand roamed.

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