The Wheeler

Chapter Nine

Two days later it was time for the closing ceremonies. There was a vote asking all the USA team members to choose our flag bearer, the person who carried our country's flag at the head of our contingent as we all marched around the outer oval of the big stadium with all the other countries represented by their teams, all marching in alphabetical order of their country's name.

We had seen a few, very few of other sports competitors on the American team and mostly on the Closed-Circuit TV in our room or in the cafeterias we usually ate in. We thought about it, and talked about it and finally, we handed in our votes for Coach Morgan. We couldn't think of a better role model, with the exception of our four dads, or Greg. The afternoon before the closing games it was announced that two people had been voted to carry our flag, and that both of their names had been written on each ballot for them, and because of this there would be two flag bearers for the USA this time, and to our utter surprise, Coach came to our dorm and announced in the meeting room that he had received 6 votes himself, but over sixty percent of all the athletes had voted for Josh and Max.

We had won between us five gold and three silver medals and we were asked to wear our medals as we carried the flags around the stadium. There were plenty of other gold, silver, and bronze medals won by other members of the entire team USA, but when it came time for us to enter the stadium and enter to do our march around, for some reason the others tucked their medals into the warm-up jackets we all wore, so it looked like we had been set up to attract all the cameramen in the whole place. Again, there were a lot of chants of "Josh and Max, Josh and Max" which came from all areas of the huge stadium. It was a very emotional experience for us. When we were asked to pose for full team pictures Josh, and I insisted that all the others with medals untuck them and let them hang over the front of their warm-up jackets.

We had an exhibition to perform for the Olympic committee, and Josh and I were not the only members of swim teams that wanted the committee to consider new dives in the future games. Coach told us that he had been told that five of the diving judges had rated our two favorite entwined dives as tens, or at least 9.9s the two times we were allowed to perform them before our portion of the presentation was over. The next morning the aquatics participants for the USA team were flown home, and I'm afraid that Josh and I slept for almost all the flight. We were still kind of groggy when Greg and Johnny helped us get our next flight to Connecticut's Bradley Airport, which was only a one hour and forty-five-minute drive from home. Once the plane finally landed it was close to midnight, but by now we were wide awake and there in the baggage claim area were Ron and Ian waiting for us.

They explained that we'd see the others when we woke in the morning, but since we had asked if Josh could spend one more night sleeping with me, they relented, and I sat next to Ian in the front seat and Josh sat next to his father in the back seat of the estate's sedan. We all sure had a lot of catching up to do and we had a good hour and a half to get a lot of it done with this set of fathers, the other two and our brothers we would fill in the next day. It had certainly been an experience for Josh and me, it had provided a lifetime of memories and new friends for us, and our family. We had elaborated on our previous medical conditions in several international and national interviews, which we hoped would lead to others getting the right help for whatever their condition was, that in itself was one of our greatest achievements throughout all this.

As I said earlier, we just didn't know if we ever wanted to do something like this again. We'd be different physically, we'd have to make some changes in our dives because of that and then diving wouldn't be as much fun for us. Greg had quit when he was ahead, and had carved out a very nice life for himself. He had time for all the charity work he did, he made time for his spouse, and he was happy, which Josh and I would have to figure out how to do for ourselves, this was not going to be a future designed around our diving, it was going to be a future that was fulfilling and rewarding for the two of us, plus we still had to get through three more years of high school yet, or did we?

Comments appreciated at Art West