“That was such a rush!” I swooped Lara up, careful to lift mostly with my left arm, and swung her around. “We did it!”
She laughed and wrapped her arms around my shoulders, further taking pressure off my arm. “We sure did!”
After spinning Lara around twice, I set her on her feet, and we took our usual bows to the audience. They seemed to love our unconventional performance. Too bad most of our elements wouldn’t be counted in our score.
Only the first attempt of any element actually counts. The extra spins and jumps we added to fill the space in the music where our lifts and throws would have been didn’t add to our score. We also only executed about half of the required elements. Oh well, we had a lot of fun and held our heads high in the process.
“Come on, let’s go cringe at our scores,” I said, taking Lara by the hand.
“I feel bad that we won’t get a medal,” she answered.
“Hey, medals don’t matter.” I stopped her right there in the middle of the ice and met her gaze. “Thank you for doing this with me. For taking a chance and reworking our whole routine less than twenty-four hours before performance time.”
“This was all my fault,” Lara said. “It was the least I can do.”
“Hey, this was not your fault. What he did was wrong, and I’d risk a gold medal any day to defend you.”
“I know, but I shouldn’t have gone out with him in the first place.”
“Well, we all make mistakes.” I wrapped her in a hug again. “Come on, let’s go deal with our coach’s wrath.” I certainly couldn’t argue that going out with that jerk was a mistake, but no woman deserves to be violated regardless of how they got themselves into the situation.
The expression on Coach Lyss Boucher’s face was unreadable, which was terrifying in its passivity. We were in deep trouble. We skated to a stop at the entrance to the rink and she handed us our skate guards. “Nice quad,” she grumbled. Yeah, she was mad.
“Thanks.” I chuckled and cleared my throat.
“Interesting addition to your planned program, if you can still call it that.” She spoke through clenched teeth.
“Sorry about that,” I mumbled under my breath.
“Planning to switch to individuals?” she asked. “Or finding a new coach?”
“No ma’am,” I answered with humility.
“Coach, this was my fault, not his,” Lara insisted. “If I hadn’t gone out with Thomas, Jordan wouldn’t have punched him and hurt his wrist.”
“Lara, this is not your fault,” I said for the hundredth time. “I wouldn’t have punched Thomas if he hadn’t been forcing himself on you. Blame him if you’re going to blame anyone. Sexual assault is never acceptable, even if he is a famous speed skater.”
That was about the moment I remembered we had cameras and microphones recording every word we were saying. Oops. Guess no one would need to question what happened to my wrist now.
“Come on, let’s go get our scores.” I took Lara by the hand again and we headed over to the kiss and cry booth. We’d cried enough and had promised coach we wouldn’t kiss until after the awards ceremony. Someone handed us each a water bottle and I took a swig as I settled in beside my best friend.
Many people in the audience were just there for a good performance and didn’t realize how many required elements were missing from our routine. All they saw was a flawless pair of skaters putting on a perfectly executed free skate. There were shocked gasps and boos that accompanied our low scores, but we weren’t surprised.
Our final standing in the results was fifth place.
Lara and I entered the Olympics poised to come home with the gold medal and landed in fifth place. Oh well.
I stood and triumphantly held up Lara’s hand in mine, turning around to wave to all sides of the audience, who were on their feet in support of us, paying us the respect due to talented athletes who had done the best we could with a difficult situation.
We would have some explaining to do to our coach, and a media nightmare to face about the sexual assault, but in that one moment we were stars.
Maybe my slip of the tongue in front of a live camera feed wasn’t such a bad thing after all. This would open a conversation about sexual assault awareness and prevention.
Righting the wrongs of social injustice was worth its weight in gold. In this case, an Olympic gold medal.
Author’s Note: If you, or someone you know, have experienced any kind of unwanted advance rather from a friend, relative, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, stranger, or anyone else, please reach out for help. Contact the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (rain.org) or call 800-656-HOPE (4673).
(As always, feedback is greatly appreciated. -Julie)
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