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Finding Tim

A Fourth Alternate Reality

by Charlie
With editorial assistance from Dix and John


Thoughts of Montreal and the Games of the XXIst Olympiad had begun even before our trip to Munich. I guess they were set back some by the fact that our time in Munich hadn't lived up to our hopes and expectations. When we looked back at our Olympic experiences we dreamed of Mexico, not of Germany. But Montreal promised to be a new day.

One evening very early in 1976 Fred came by our house to talk about the Olympics in the coming summer. How big a deal was it going to be for the Gang? Who all would want to go? How should we plan on getting there? Should he be looking for group quarters? Tim played down the importance of the Montreal Games, after all it was his third trip. However, I pointed out that there were three members of the Gang who might be competing, and that Judy, who would become out newest member, was likely to be as well. Furthermore, it would be Judy's first Olympics, and so would be a big deal for her.

Jerry, Phil's brother, was continuing his graduate studies at the university. The first year he'd lived with Phil and Franklin, but now had his own little apartment. He'd fit right in with the Gang from the beginning, but hadn't been sexually involved. After his homosexual experience with Phil and me he was satisfied on that score, and almost any sex in the Gang would involve some kind of gay sex. He was now dating Judy Freeman, the diver from Michigan. Judy had been equally popular with the Gang, and they were, after a mail inquiry to the Gang, our newest members. Except for the special relationship between Tim and Judy, and between Jerry and Franklin and Phil, they didn't have the close ties to the Gang individually that most of the rest of us had. I had to admit that that was going to apply to Tina and Merle when they eventually returned to the States.

Fred would have none of it. "Listen. When you invite someone to join the Gang, that's it. They're in. It's up to all of us to accept that and deal with them as equals. Supporting Judy is absolutely as important as supporting Hal. That's what your love and support means, Tim. Now, I think I've answered my own question. The whole damn Gang is expected in Montreal, and I'll make it my business to get them there and feed and house them. I'm going to put the word out right away."

He did. And the way he worded it, nobody dared turn down his invitation. Even Tina and Merle agreed to come. Of course, with Fred paying their way from Paris, they would've been fools to turn down the invitation.

Tom and Nancy had made it to Grand Forks about a year before. Tom had been uncertain about where he wanted to look for a job, but had needed to get one pretty quick. Fred had said, "Look, you have budget and finance training, and Fred's Sports needs a financial officer. I'll put you to work right away. I'll get my money's worth and you won't have a miserable time looking for a job, perhaps taking a meaningless job to support your family while you're searching. We both will understand that you aren't making a long-term commitment to Fred's Sports. Keep looking. I'll support you in your search. When you make up your mind–go for it. If you decide to stick with Fred's Sports, you, Andy and I will talk about the future. Deal?"

Nobody could turn down Fred's deals. Tom became the Treasurer of Fred's Sports and, in many ways, Fred's personal assistant. They got along well, and it seemed clear to everyone that the arrangement would become permanent. Tom would just smile at that suggestion and say, "It's too soon to say, and Fred always tells me to keep my options open."

Now Fred recruited Tom to fly to Montreal and find Olympic housing for the Gang. He found a big old house that could be rented from March through the end of the year. The owner wasn't really thinking that it was a possible housing facility for the games, so Fred didn't have to pay too outlandish a sum for its rental. It had five big bedrooms on the second floor, two littler ones on the third, and a finished basement that would serve either as a dormitory or an orgy hall. Tom insisted that only time would tell in that regard. A return trip in May, after he had possession of the house, got the place furnished with big beds, cheap comfy chairs, and four tables that could be strung together between the living room, hall, and dining room to hold the forty folding chairs he bought. Tom made one of the second floor bedrooms into a nursery for Billy and Sara's two boys, Willie and Bob, and Carl and Carol's boy, Nels.

Getting us all there was a bit of a problem. What Fred really wanted to do was to get a special railroad car put on the Empire Builder for us to ride to Chicago, where the car would be switched to a train headed toward Montreal. But we would've had to travel to western New York and then connect to another train to Montreal. Too long, and he got no cooperation from Amtrak at all. Fred's comment was, "In the days of the real railroads they handled requests like that." He dreamed of getting one of the new hydrofoils, very fast ships, to take us from Duluth through the Great Lakes and up the St. Lawrence River to Montreal. That was never anything but a dream, as the distances were too far and he would never have been able to charter such a ship. It was about 1,600 miles to drive, too far for a chartered bus to remain comfortable. Tom finally got Fred to accept the reality of old, humdrum airplanes. Reservations were tight, even six months in advance, and we had to move at least fifty people. However, Tom was able to arrange a charter, and the trip was a done deal. Each of us would have to get to Grand Forks, Minneapolis, or Chicago, where the charter would make stops.

With plans made, and the entire Gang committed to going, it was up to each athlete to make the team and be ready for the competition.

I had put Timmy away, and he now hung on our wall, unstrung, a symbol of what had been, rather than what might be. Being able to say that I was an Olympic gold and silver medalist was an ego boost, and it even counted for something (not much) in some quarters: not many people in this world can claim two Olympic medals, and vastly fewer lawyers can. But life in an Olympic Village was behind me; I would participate in future Olympics vicariously, through Tim, Hal and others.

Tim practiced as consistently as possible. His responsibilities at the university caused him to miss practice more often than he wished, but his practice schedule was still superhuman. He worked on his diving as much as his gymnastics, even though his days of competitive diving were over, or at least he assumed that they were. However, despite the fact that he continued to be in tip top shape as a gymnast, he seldom entered competitions. About two or three meets a years had been his pace since the Munich games. Because he always got a first or second in something at the national championships each year, he earned an invitation to the next, and to worlds. He'd only gone to worlds once since Munich–to Brussels in 1975. He'd been first on the rings and medaled in two other events, but compared to previous performances, his showing in Brussels was lackluster. Tor had been sick and hadn't made it that year, and I think that was a little discouraging to Tim. Most of the gymnastics world had dismissed him as a has been, and he rarely appeared on anybody's list of Olympic hopefuls. This didn't seem to bother Tim, who simply pointed out that he was keeping up his practice and was satisfied with his performance level. If Tim was satisfied, then I was too. I really wasn't sure just how seriously he was taking the Olympics, but that was his decision. I certainly wasn't going to push him. After the incredible efforts he'd made for the two previous Olympics, if he wanted to coast into this one, that was fine with me.

Hal ran marathons because he liked to, and simply because he was Hal, and Hal was always running. Hal lived to run. But he didn't live to compete. He avoided Boston, and ran many more marathons in his neighborhood than in official competition. But he ran them at a terrific clip, and it was pretty clear that he'd qualify for the Olympics. But he was adamant: This year he'd run his own race. He had his plans for the games all worked out. Two days before the race he'd work out his strategy and his target time. He planned to tell any other runners who would listen just what his time would be. If they could beat that, fine. If not, that was OK, he liked medals. But there would be no pushing. His race would be his race.

Billy was in an unusual situation. On his team, that is the IU team, was the top NCAA diver off the platform and the second and third in the nation off the springboard. They had competed with Billy in the open nationals and worlds, and Billy was still the best in the world. He hadn't entered into very many competitions, because he didn't like competing against his own divers when they completed in non-NCAA events. But when he competed, he won–except for one second off the springboard. He was unquestionably the world champion and had been for seven years. It was an unprecedented run on top of the sport, and a lot of divers were determined to topple him in Montreal. It was also very clear that from the mountaintop he was sitting on, a second place was the same as a 15th place. He was either king of the mountain or not. Billy understood this. He confided to the Gang, "This is going to be my last competition. I'd dearly love to go out on top, but it's time. Wish me luck." We certainly did.

Judy was looking at the possibility of competing in her first Olympics. She was just finishing her senior year at UND, and had provided an inspiration for the UND team in much the same way that Tim and Billy had before her. They were conference champions both years she'd been on the team, and both her diving and her leadership and enthusiasm had been equally responsible. This was, however, the North Central Conference, not the Big Ten. Judy had competed in a number of individual meets and done well, but not first. At nationals she'd gotten a second and a third. She was probably good enough to qualify for the team, but had no claim on a medal based on her performances to date. Tim spent a lot of time with her as they dove together in practice. He was more optimistic than she about her Olympic chances.

There was about a month between nationals and the Olympic trials, and another three months till the games in July. When Judy got back from nationals Tim met her at the Fargo airport. "We need to talk." And talk they did, in the car to Grand Forks. Actually Tim did most of the talking, and he really didn't have a lot to say, but what he did have to say was important. It went something like this, "OK, Judy. Your Olympic experience starts now. You can study when necessary. You may sleep. You may eat, but quickly. All other time is focused on the Olympics. Non-stop for the next four months. You can win medals, maybe even gold. You're that good. But only if you work absolutely non-stop. Are you ready?"

It was one of those pregnant questions that Tim had asked at crucial times in the past. Those brave enough to answer, "Yes," came under Tim's spell and achieved great heights. Those who said, "No," went their way with no hard feelings from Tim, but without ever knowing the heights they could've reached. This story has only been about those who answered, "Yes," but there were a number of others who had said, "No."

You may remember that Judy had been confronted with a question like this from Tim before. Her answer had been, "Yes," and that had led to her successes so far, and ultimately to her decision to come to UND rather than stay at the University of Michigan. By putting it as a new question, Tim was making it clear that he was talking about a significant increase in her commitment to diving. Judy certainly understood that as she contemplated her answer.

She never hesitated, as Tim was sure she wouldn't. "Tim, if I wasn't going to follow you to the moon, I wouldn't have followed you to Grand Forks. Yes, of course, yes. I've just been waiting for you to put it to me. Charlie warned me that a question like this would come. Why did it take this long?"

"That's a good question. I'm not sure I know the answer. First of all, you have done wonders. You've practiced as hard as you needed to. You've hung on every word I've said and followed my advice. I've thought you were progressing splendidly. But now it's time for the full court press. There's enough time to make the improvements you need to make, and I'm able to take the time to help."

"Don't you have to practice your gymnastics? You're going to compete, aren't you?"

"I'll maintain my current practice schedule, with an increase in the last two weeks. The gymnastics world doesn't think I'm ready, but I think I'm ready. You and Charlie can watch." Tim never lacked for ego. On the other hand, he'd always performed exactly as well as he expected himself to; I was willing to accept his self-analysis as gospel.

"OK, tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. I'll see you in the pool. The next day you fly to Bloomington, Indiana, for a session with Billy Carson and Ralph Billings. Two days later you'll be back here and we're going to drown you daily. Be prepared."

"What's this about Indiana? The IU coaches aren't going to spend time with me. And Billy's going to be diving in Montreal; he can't be coaching me."

"They know you're going to make the team, and they want to help you as much as they can."

"How do they know I'm going to make the team? I don't even know that."

"I told them you were."

"And that makes it so?"

"For them, yes."

"And what're they going to teach me in two days?"

"Everything I can't."

"That's a cryptic answer."

"It's the best you're going to get. Tomorrow, the pool, six a.m. The next day, to the airport; I'll pick you up at 4:40 a.m."

"What if I can't get a ticket on that early flight?"

"You already have it. Fred bought it two weeks ago."

When Judy came back I picked her up at the airport, because Tim was in the gym at that time. Judy told me about the trip. "Charlie, I'm not really sure why I went down there. Billy was so kind to me. I stayed with him and Sara, you know."

"Yes, I know. Tim set that up."

"We went straight to the pool. I dove; they criticized. I dove; they criticized. I don't mean negatively. It was much the same as Tim: each dive generated a little helpful suggestion. Sometimes Billy would demonstrate what he was trying to tell me. They were relentless. Dive. Dive. Dive. Short meal break. Dive. Dive. Dive. Ralph, Billy, one of their senior divers, an assistant coach all took turns with the comments and criticism. Two days of this. I really improved, but Tim could've done the same thing here."


"You can't believe."

"Oh, yes, I can. Let's see. Sara fixed a late dinner. After diving all day you were exhausted, but enjoyed the meal. At dinner, Sara said something like, 'I hope you'll sleep with the two of us tonight. Billy would really like to get to know you.'"

"Charlie, you've got it almost word for word. How did you know?"

"Hey, that's the Gang. Love and support. Who better than Billy and Sara?"

"Tim set the whole thing up, didn't he?"

"Of course."

"I was had."

"No, no. You weren't had. You experienced the kind of love and support that contributes to Olympic medals. Tim didn't think it would happen here. He thought it might in Bloomington. Billy called the next morning and told us all was well."

"I was blind. Actually, I was almost blinded by what came next. We went upstairs and they both undressed for bed as if I wasn't there. It was clear that they expected the same of me. They went to the bathroom first, and then I did. When I came out, Billy and Sara we lying in bed. Sara motioned me to get in, and Billy slipped out so that I could get between the two of them. We cuddled. It was incredible. Here were these two sharing their intimate relationship with me–almost a stranger. I let my hand roam over Billy's body. God, what a body. Long, sleek, hard. As my hand rubbed his legs–God, what legs–he turned and faced me, kissing me gently. Then I felt Sara's hand exploring me. Eventually she found my clitoris and massaged it gently. I was really aroused, and had an orgasm very quickly. It was the first time I'd ever had that done by a woman–it was strange and wonderful at the same time. When I started to reciprocate, I was told, 'Just sleep.' I did, very easily."

"Sara told us. She also told us about the next night."

"Oh, God, Charlie. Those are two sexy creatures. I'm still a virgin, but I don't think it was my doing. I completely lost it. We did everything, but Billy never tried to push that far. He's really wonderful. And sexy! And hot! What a night!"

"I'm glad it worked out."

"What I think I'm getting from you, Charlie, is that the nighttime activities were the main focus of the trip, not the diving practice."


"And that was all planned out in advance with Billy and Sara?"


"I can't believe that Sara was so comfortable in that situation."

"Believe me, she was. She's quite a gal. Perfect for Billy. And they miss the Gang here. They were delighted that you came to them. Billy can't even think about that kind of a relationship with an IU student. You were a special event."

"I'm in shock."

"Nothing like you're going to be after Tim puts you through his Olympic paces in the next months."

"I'm ready."

"So is Tim."

There were three wrestlers in the Gang that held Olympic medals. However, none of them had kept up their wrestling since they won their medals, so they'd be going to Montreal as spectators, not competitors. I don't think that Jim, Paul, or Marty were sorry; they were all happy with their single fifteen minutes of Olympic fame.

Serious practice for everyone was the first order of the day. For Hal that simply meant pressing a little harder in his recreational marathons, and moving up to his expected Olympic pace. In the process he needed to decide just what that pace would be, although that decision would wait until after the Trials. At the Trials he'd be content to secure his place on the team.

Practice for Billy was somewhat of a problem, as he had study and coaching responsibilities that he couldn't shirk. However, Ralph Billings solved that problem for him. "Look, Billy. It's in the best interests of this university and this team if its Assistant Diving Coach gets an Olympic medal or two, especially gold ones. You know, I think it would be unprecedented for an Olympic athlete, and his coach–also an Olympic athlete–to compete against each other and both walk away with medals. We have four divers with good chances to clear the trials and go to Montreal. You get with them, and the five of you work together. You're relieved of ALL other departmental responsibilities from now until the Olympics."

Billy knew a great offer and immediately accepted. He did think it'd be kind of neat to be a co-medalist with one of the divers he coached. It's not the sort of thing found in Olympic record books, but everyone he asked thought it would be unprecedented. His four fellow divers were two men and two women, Fred Kopovich, Leonard Wilson, Mary Starver, and Joan Cousins. He knew them all well, and would get to know them much better over the next few months. (No, not the Biblical know; dirty mind!)

Tim and Judy worked hard in Grand Forks. I worried that Tim was spending too much time with Judy and not doing enough of his own practicing. Granted, he was practicing his gymnastics at his usual pace, but prior to previous Olympics he'd increased the pace somewhat. The only diving he was doing was when he worked with Judy: he demonstrated dives and specific aspects of dives for her, and took a few recreational dives of his own, but for the most part his diving practice was on hold until after the Olympics.

Judy was being worked to the bone. Tim was relentless, as were Larry and Bess, the UND diving coaches. I was amazed at how well Judy held up. She seemed to have simply accepted Tim as her mentor and did everything he asked, without question. It was, of course, the right thing to do, but most people, particularly just past the teen years, are unable to submit to that kind of discipline. She spent a lot of nights at our house, always sleeping with us. She was often asleep so quickly that Tim and I had hardly gotten into bed but what she was sleeping. Her presence didn't deter us from enjoying one another, and on those nights she was awake she'd join us, usually limiting her activity to her hands, but sometimes her mouth. The main thing, for her, was just being with us, naked and touching. She said it brought peace after the turbulence of her days with Tim, and the fact that it was with Tim made it easier to accept his demands during the day.

I'm not going to go into details, but all four made the team in their trials. Nobody did spectacularly, but nobody tried to. All just wanted to be on the team. Tim, however, did more poorly than he expected, but did make the team. I think he was genuinely worried about how it would go in Montreal, but he altered his practice schedule only a little. He did get Frank to work with him more, and spent four days in St. Paul working with the coach at the University of Minnesota–taking him up on an offer of long ago to be of help when he could.

Tim and Billy wanted to room together in the Olympic Village, but were concerned that they might be abandoning Hal. I think Hal sensed this, because one day he informed them that he'd be rooming with Evan Zinser, a New Zealand marathoner he'd met at the Munich games. They'd kept in touch, and had actually raced against each other in a marathon in California, which Hal had entered about a year previously. I think that the only reason he traveled to California for a marathon was that Evan would be racing. Judy would be rooming with a swimmer that she'd known at Michigan, and was looking forward to renewing the friendship. She'd told me that she really wanted to room with either Tim or Billy, but had suspected that the IOC wouldn't look favorably on those arrangements. Such prudes.

Perhaps, for us, the most exciting thing about the trip to Montreal wasn't the Olympics, but the fact that the Gang would be complete for the first time in years, and for the first time ever since it grew to anything near its present size. The first night that we had all gathered in Montreal Fred hosted a fantastic banquet at a downtown Montreal hotel. The setting was lovely, the hors d'oeuvres unique, the meal delicious, the company delightful, and the speeches non-existent: all of the ingredients for a perfect banquet. At the time that a traditional banquet might have served up speeches–just as people were finishing their desserts, except those who for some mysterious reason hadn't gotten theirs yet–Fred rose, thanked everyone for coming to Montreal, and invited each of us to tell, very briefly what was going on in our lives. We needed an update on everybody.

I could go down the list, but I think we're all pretty well up to date on everybody. A couple of notes, however: Tina was delighted to report that she had a publisher for a first novel, the outline and first four chapters having been accepted by Random House. She bubbled over the fact that when she'd visited their New York offices on a quick trip from Paris she'd actually met and talked to Bennett Cerf. She admitted that he hadn't read her material, nor had anything to do with it being accepted.

Our contingent in Grand Forks would be growing: Walter, Trudi, Curtis, and Melanie announced that they were planning a move to Grand Forks. Walter and Curtis were going to start job hunting in the fall, but they warned us that at their age it might be a year-long process to find a job. When he heard that Fred leaned over to me and whispered, "I think we can shorten that time frame."

I responded, "Fred, they don't want to be beholden to you. We kids can deal with it, and we love you for it, but at their age it wouldn't be good."

"They'll never know."

Herb shared the news that Dr. Olafsen, Tim's high school principal, would be retiring at the end of the coming school year. Tim whispered to me, "I'm sure the school will make a big deal of that, and I want to be there."

"I'll be with you."

Judy and Jerry each took the opportunity to introduce themselves to the members of the Gang they were meeting for the first time and to thank everyone for the opportunity to be part of the Gang. Judy told us, "I'm only now really understanding what I've gotten myself into, and it's wonderful."

"I'll second that," added Jerry.

Someone yelled, "Give her a kiss."

He did, and it looked to me like it wasn't the first time they'd kissed, nor did I think it would be the last.

The opening ceremony was a thrill, as expected–for us in the audience and for the four marching with the US team. It was Billy's third Olympics, and he was the American most often cited as a sure gold medal winner. As such, he was invited to carry the flag. Any member of the Gang could've told the USOC officials not to bother to ask him; there was no way he was going to carry the flag with Tim on the team. So Tim was invited to be the flag bearer, and he accepted, pointing out to me later that since he couldn't walk holding hands with me, he'd take second best and carry the American flag. It was a fitting beginning to his finale at the Olympic Games.

Billy and Hal walked in together, along with Judy, but they didn't hold hands. Hal told me that they would've liked to, but felt that they would've been taking something away from Tim and me if they had. It wouldn't have bothered me at all, but I know that Tim very much appreciated their gesture.

Diving was the first of the Gang's events, and it began with the women. At the Trials Judy had qualified off the platform, but come in fourth off the springboard. However, an accident sidelined the number two diver off the springboard, and Judy made the team in both events. Billy, Larry, and Bess all served as her coaches, and she did very well in the preliminary rounds, easily making the semi-finals in both events.

The next day was Billy's day to shine. It was the platform preliminary round, and none of the diving scores would count toward the final medal standings. There was no question of Billy qualifying, and he didn't try to exhibit the perfection that he would in the semi-finals or finals, when every tenth of a point counted.

The next day was women's platform semi-finals in the afternoon and finals after dinner in prime television time. Judy looked like a swan, beautiful to look at, until she dove, and then her diving form was so wonderful that it made you forget her beauty. Of course, we were all prejudiced. Only Tim was able to watch her and see the little mistakes that can cost a tenth of a point here and there. At dinner time she was fourth. She was happy; doing that well in the Olympics was a dream for her–she hadn't even been sure of qualifying, and now here she was near the top.

Tim and Billy ate dinner with her–just the three of them. There was no coaching, no urging, just love and support. Judy came away from that dinner knowing that she was loved as a person, not for her diving skills. Both Tim and Billy were magnificent in their ability to project love and show support. It was because they truly did love people, and we all knew it. Judy knew it. She got back to the pool after dinner, refreshed and rejuvenated. Her diving was magnificant, and she pulled down a silver medal behind one of Billy's divers from IU who took the gold. The next day Judy got the bronze off the springboard behind her roommate from Michigan who took the silver. The United States had four of the six women's diving medals. Tim was bursting with pride that the University of North Dakota had Judy's two medals to one for Michigan and one for Indiana. He knew both coaches, and certainly let them know it.

Judy was on cloud nine. I truly believe that those two medals meant more to her that the seventeen that Tim had earned in the two previous Olympics. Tim and Billy got kissed so many times they lost count. It was a joy to watch her. All Olympians should get that much joy out of the Games. Of course, not all can win two medals, and even fewer can be loved and supported by Tim and Billy and the rest of us.

Billy was next up for the Gang. Tim was his personal coach, while Ralph Billings was coaching the two men from IU, both of whom made the semi-finals and finals. I'll have to admit, as beautiful as Tim's diving had always been, and despite the rose colored glasses through which I always viewed Tim's diving, Billy was as close to perfection as I had ever seen. There's no question is my mind, as I look back on those games and the ones that went before and the ones that followed, Billy's performance in Montreal was the best diving the world has ever seen. I've forgotten how many tens he scored, but they were the norm. A 9.9 was a lousy dive for Billy in Montreal. When he mounted the platform, or stepped to the springboard, a hush came over the audience. Everybody seemed to understand that they were witnessing something special. Added to the obvious perfection of his dives was the fact that he followed his usual practice of choosing the seven most difficult dives for his optional dives. From the first dive from the platform on Friday to the last frp, the springboard on Saturday, Billy held onto the two gold medals so firmly that everybody simply conceded that the contest was for silver and bronze. The big thrill for Billy wasn't simply his golds, but the fact that his IU divers took one silver and one bronze. Both times when he mounted the podium to hear the Star Spangled Banner one of his IU divers was with him. What a weekend!

Tim and Ralph argued, without ever settling it, as to whether UND or IU got to claim Billy. It didn't matter, Billy acknowledged his debt to both. But most of all, Billy acknowledged his debt to Tim. And Saturday night they came back to the house that Fred had rented for us, claimed one of the third floor bedrooms, and spent the night alone together. I've never wanted to intrude on the time they had together that night, so I've never asked either of them how they spent the night, and they've never talked about it. But I know that it was a very important time for both of them, and I didn't begrudge it to them. Besides, Sara and I had a pretty good time together down in the basement.

With great reluctance Fred had decided that only actual members of the Gang could live in the big old house. Judy's parents, Larry, Frank, John, Bess, and a few others were provided rooms in a nearby hotel. At the house Fred arranged for a caterer to keep a buffet going from six in the morning until midnight, changing from breakfast, to lunch, to dinner gradually as the day went on. Everyone was welcome at the buffet, Gang, friends of the Gang, people we met and invited to come by, and I think probably some perfect strangers that figured out that this was a good place to get a wonderful meal. Fred couldn't have cared less. He was in his usual version of heaven–playing host to wonderful people he loved.

Gymnastics was next, and Tim was as ready as he'd ever be. It wasn't his finest hour. He did very well, and for anyone but Tim and a few other exceptional athletes, a silver medal would've been a wonderful end to an Olympic experience. His silver was on the rings. He got a fourth on the high bar, and a fifth on the floor exercises. He was seventh overall. Tor wasn't competing; he'd stopped competing a year earlier after an ankle injury. But he came to Montreal during the second weeks of the games to watch the gymnastics competition. His analysis of Tim's performance was, I believe, right on the mark. "Tim is as good as he ever was. But this present crew of gymnasts grew up watching Tim and knowing what they had to beat. They've moved beyond him. On the high bar, Tim set the standard for fearless performances. These guys have somehow had fear beaten out of them. On the rings I honestly don't think there's anyone in the world that can hold a "T" position as long as Tim, and certainly not an inverted "T". But they're doing things now that Tim never dreamed of. And while no one can stick landings like Tim, and I don't think anybody will ever equal his record for sticking landings, they stick them often enough so that someone managed to come out ahead of him."

That was Tim's appraisal of the situation as well. And he seemed to live up to his own rule: the color of the medal didn't matter. As he stood on the podium listening to the Soviet national anthem, he seemed as happy as I'd ever seen him with gold around his neck. When the anthem ended, he leaped up to the top podium and gave the Russian gold medalist, who stood six inches taller than Tim, a huge hug and a kiss on the cheek. The Russian bronze medalist got the same treatment. Though they didn't share a common language, they seemed to be a close fraternity of three for a few moments as the ceremony ended. Tim always had maintained that if somebody was better than him, that person deserved the medal and Tim would be glad for him. He lived up to his own standards that day.

That left Hal. The Olympic organizers knew a good thing when they saw one, and the final bit of the marathon was a good thing. The marathon was started 25+ miles away from the city and stadium, and was scheduled to end with the final 1/3 mile lap run in the stadium during a pause in the closing ceremony. It meant that the marathoners would end with the largest crowd of any of the events of the Olympics.

Hal had spent a lot of time thinking about how fast a race he'd try to run. He decided that his target would be 2 hours, ten and a half minutes. It'd be close to his personal best, and would be an Olympic record. It'd be a stretch for Hal to run that fast and come in standing up, but he thought he could do it. Frank Shorter would be competing again, and there were three others, all European, that Hal figured had a shot at winning and/or breaking the record. Two days before the race he told them all that he expected to cross the line at 2:10:30, and that if they could beat that they could have the gold medal. Frank took him quite seriously, and responded, "Hal, I can't beat that, but I'll be close on your heels. If you slip at all, I'll pass you."

Hal told Frank, "If I slip, then you deserve the medal, whatever color it is." The other runners just sort of laughed Hal off. Nobody, they thought, could predict his time like that.

Hal could. It was quite a race. Interestingly, Hal took an early lead, but soon gave it up to Frank and Waldeman Cierpanski of East Germany. He never fell too far behind the two of them. A few other runners moved ahead of Hal and sometimes the other two, but couldn't sustain the pace. The race was for the three of them, pretty much from the beginning. Hal told me later that he'd gotten off to a slightly faster start than he expected, because of luck in the movement of the pack. This made him about five seconds ahead of his pace for most of the race. His plan was to speed up at mile 14, instead of mile 17, which would be needed to make the incredibly fast time of 2:10:30 which he was planning on. In fact, he gained slightly more with the earlier speeding up, and it helped him cross the finish line slightly ahead of his pace. He took a silver medal at 2:10:20.3. Waldeman crossed at 2:9:55.0 a new Olympic record. Frank at 2:10:45.8 about a minute and a half better than his gold medal pace of four years before. All three medalists and the fourth place runner were in the stadium running the last lap of the race at the same time–exactly what the organizers of the closing ceremony hoped for. But with a second place at 25 seconds behind first place, the finish was never in doubt, and it wasn't the heart stopping thrill that Frank and Hal had given the crowd in Munich.

Hal accomplished what he always did: he crossed the finish line, ran a little extra, caught his breath while he walked back to the finish line, and calmly talked to reporters, officials, and friends. It was five minutes before either Frank or Waldeman could join the conversation. Hal was all smiles; he'd run his own race, and was just as happy with a silver medal as he would've been with a gold. As they stood there, Frank Shorter had an incredible realization: by running his heart out four years before, Hal had given him the gift of an untarnished gold medal. He came over to Hal, who was fielding the inevitable stupid question, "You could've taken a half-minute off your time if you'd driven yourself harder, couldn't you?"

To this Hal always responded, "I ran the race I set out to run. Waldeman ran a faster race. He won the gold, set an Olympic record, and deserves the medal. Speculation about a different race scenario is silly. Give him credit."

Shorter pulled him aside and said, "Thanks, I didn't understand your gift until right now. You're the most incredible sportsman I've ever competed against, Hal. Thank you."

Hal smiled, and gave him a hug. "I think the same of you Frank, and I'm glad I ran the race I did four years ago. I guess I should've done it for Waldeman this year, but I just couldn't. I had to run my own race."

He did hug Waldeman, and congratulated him on a fine, record-setting race. But without a common language, not much more was communicated. They stood on the podia, listened to the East German national anthem, and then joined the other athletes for the rest of the closing ceremony. Tim, Billy, and Judy immediately surrounded Hal, hugging and congratulating him. Hal looked completely content.

Hal had missed one of the more bizarre events of the games–the streaker than somehow gained access to the stadium and ran among hundreds of costumed women performers in the opening event of the ceremony, while they tried their best to pretend he wasn't there. He had been wildly cheered, but eventually captured and removed from the stadium by police who reportedly handled him pretty roughly. It's amazing what prudes the authorities–of most countries–can be.

Tim had arranged for a press conference the following morning, featuring himself, Billy, and Hal. Sara, Sue and I were with them, as well as their coaches: Ralph, Larry and Bess for Billy, Herb for Hal, and for Tim in diving Larry, Bess, and his high school coach Nelson Waters, and for gymnastics Frank and John. Fred had made it his business to get all of the coaches to Montreal for the games. All three athletes were announcing their retirement from Olympic competition. For Tim and Billy, it was retirement from all national and world level athletics. For Hal, only from the Olympics, as he intended to continue to compete in some marathons indefinitely.

Reporters had a pretty good sense of a story, and most figured out that this was a farewell news conference. All three of the men had been favorites of reporters for years, because they were good stories, and because they had always treated reporters well.

Tim began with a brief statement, thanking all for coming, for their support over the years, and in many cases for being good friends. Then he announced that each had a brief statement, and he would begin. He was proud of his three Olympic appearances, his eighteen medals, and his success in two sports. He introduced and thanked all of his coaches. And then he turned to me and said, "To Charlie I owe everything. My Olympic career began in Mexico City as we entered the stadium holding hands. It ends this morning in the same way." He took my hand, held it over our heads, and kissed me very gently on the lips. He declined questions until the others had spoken.

Billy was leaving at the pinnacle of his career. He'd been generally considered the best in the world for eight years. Who knew how long he could stay on top? But he told the group gathered there that he thought now was the time to be the best diving coach in the world, and stop competing with his own athletes. "At this stage in my life, I'd rather coach the best diver in the world than be the best diver in the world. It's time to move on, and it's time to make room at the top for the next generation of divers. Besides, if I don't get out of the way, one of these kids is going to beat me some day, and I can't have that."

Hal was simpler in his statement. "I love to run. I love to run marathons. But I enjoy the course that I run in Grand Forks, and I enjoy running in lesser marathons all over the country. I think it's time to leave the Olympics, and all of its excitement to another generation. I wish them well."

There were all kinds of questions. "Wouldn't Hal like another medal in four years?" "Why wouldn't Billy stay on top as long as he could?" "Was Tim unhappy winning just one medal this year?" They tried their best to honestly answer the questions, but reporters have a way of not really hearing. Finally, Mick–still with Sports Illustrated, now a respected senior sports reporter, and sitting in the back of the room, silent until now–rose, got Tim's attention, and said, "I don't have a question. I just have something to say. I first met Tim almost a dozen years ago, and Hal and Billy not long afterwards. They are three of the finest athletes I have ever met, and I've met a lot. They will be missed. I will miss them. The world with miss them. The Olympics will miss them. The only thing that I can think of to say at this point is, Thank you, Tim. Thank you, Hal. Thank you, Billy. Good luck."

The entire audience–the press corps at the Olympics is huge, and there was almost nothing else going on this day after the Olympics–rose and applauded. Sue, Sara and I, along with the coaches, rose and applauded as well. None of us, including Tim, Hal, and Billy, had a dry eye.

Tim got up, followed by Hal and Billy, and moved into the group, shaking hands, hugging the reporters he knew, and thanking them for their support. Then this hardened bunch of sports reporters, all of whom had laughed at and belittled kids and fans for their desperate pursuit of autographs, this crowd of mature adults all became like kids and thrust notebooks and pens at Tim, Hal, and Billy. I think they spent an hour signing their lives away.

Little did anyone know that day that it wouldn't be Tim and Billy's Olympic swan song, most especially Tim and Billy. One day they would once again bring human physical perfection back to the Olympics! But no one knew.

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