Meet Michael P. Thomas, whose story “Hot Shots” appears in my m/m Olympic Anthology, Going for Gold, published by MLR Press. As soon as I’d read the first page, I knew I’d include this story. I can’t wait to see what he writes next. And neither will you.
When I say that I had always yearned to be an Olympian, what I of course mean is that I am ass-over-teakettle nuts about jocks, and my life’s primary ambition has long been to fuck as many Olympic athletes as possible. The first time I ever clapped eyes on Michael Phelps’ extraordinary body in nothing but a Speedo, I knew that world-class athletes were my sexual destiny, and I set my sights on the Olympics at an early age. The shortest distance between two points being a straight line, I figured bunking up in a dorm full of them would provide me the easiest possible access to the Hottest Guys in the World.
A foolproof plan, you’ll agree, save for one detail: I was nowhere near a World Class Athlete. In any sport. Certainly not swimming, which—a bed full of broad-backed Aquamen being my primary target—I naturally tried first. I was fit enough, and at 6-foot-3 I would eventually grow flippers for feet, but I never had the shoulders, and why does everybody act like swimming pools all go dry at ten o’clock in the morning? If I have to roll out of bed while the neighborhood rooster is still sawing logs and get shirtless and wet before the damn sun comes up, I am unlikely to excel at any pursuit. Swimmers are hot-bods, to be sure, but I figured I’d have better access to them in the Olympic Village cafeteria than in the pool, anyway, and I hung my Speedos out to dry after one unremarkable summer-club season.
Wrestling was no more of a success story. It occurred to me that if my objective was physical proximity to jocks, a sport that required me to intertwine with them during the course of competition might be the ticket. I cut an encouragingly sexy figure in the singlet, but I was still growing like kudzu—taller this week than last, skinnier tomorrow than yesterday—and I couldn’t muster the coordination to do much more than hump every boy they put underneath me. Which suited me fine, but didn’t jive with the sporting objectives of most of the rest of the team, and my season was cut short when I came in my singlet during a particularly frictional exhibition match against the star of the all-boys Catholic high school from across town.
Thus do we meet Beau, the handsome young hero of “Hot Shots,” my story in EM Lynley’s new Olympic-themed anthology, Going for Gold. I have long been a rabid fan of all things Olympic, a passion that, like Beau’s, was sparked by the sight of a swimmer in a Speedo. Because of a heart-wrenching injury suffered during prelims, John Moffet failed to medal in 1984, but because he was gorgeous (and maybe a little bit because he cried), he had me glued to the TV for two weeks that summer, and, at age 12, two things became clear to me: 1. I was officially and irretrievably gay, and 2. The Olympics were a moving, inspirational, and surprising spectacle for another fling with which I was scarcely convinced I’d be able to wait four long years. When 1988 rolled around, I was enthralled with Swiss skier Pirmin Zurbriggen, and in 1992 I was so caught up in the rapture of love with Christian Laettner that I actually watched Olympic basketball. By the time the Thorpedo was wowing the hometown crowd in Sydney in 2000, the first Olympics I actually got to go to, I was a drooling junkie for the biggest quadrennial Hot Guy Pageant in the world.
I was on a swim team and all that—State Champs my senior year in high school, thank you very much—but I knew I didn’t have the drive or the dedication to Sport to ever go to the Olympics as anything other than a spectator. OK, I had occasional fantasies of sitting supportively next to my sun-tanned and toothsome jock husband in the Olympic Village while NBC interviewed him about his meteoric rise to the top of his sport (swimming, skiing, basketball, I didn’t care—beggars can’t be choosers), and of smiling demurely and cracking a suitably-understated-yet-hilarious joke when he glowingly heaped praise and credit for his success onto me in front of millions of viewers, but that was the closest I ever even dared to dream I would get to Olympic Glory, and when in Real Life I flipped for a 350-pounder, even those dreams were put to rest with some finality.
I had other dreams, though, and one I pursued hotly was to travel the world as thoroughly as my time here in it would allow. It happens, more by accident than by design, that I have visited every city that has ever hosted a modern Summer Games, Sydney and Hong Kong (which hosted Beijing’s equestrian events in 2008) while the games were actually under way. Hot guys doing amazing things with their incredible bodies is, yes, a major selling point of the Olympics for me, but the modern Olympic Ideal of the pursuit, not just of shiny medals and leafy crowns, but also of enhanced cross-cultural understanding and Brother (and Sister-) hood of Man appeals greatly to the World Citizen in me. My career with a goliath international airline is a learning experience on many fronts, but the one lesson it never tires of driving home is that, when people meet each other face-to-face, as individuals, we seek common ground and understanding with much greater fervor than we do opportunities for conflict and strife. In the face of language barriers and wildly disparate cultural expectations, we still often smile and laugh and gesture hopefully, if indecipherably, to express a need to find a train station, a willingness to help, or our universal distaste for airplane food. While exacting and exalting extraordinarily high levels of dedication and achievement, The Olympic Games also embody—and highlight on the World Stage—a spirit of fellowship and equality that is otherwise too-often lacking as people consider their place in our world.
In a way that I never did—partly because he’s 6-foot-3, gorgeous, and cocky in a way that I never was—Beau sets out to see that his fantasies of world class sex with world class athletes become his reality. After repeated attempts at more traditional athletic pursuits disappoint, he comes to find himself in his mother’s native Luxembourg, utterly smitten by suave, sexy Marcel, a three-time Olympian who can lay claim to two bronze shooting medals, and Beau’s last best chance at a crack at the Games—and their players. What I knew about shooting before Beau and Marcel came along wouldn’t have sloshed out of a thimble, but writing this story gave me a new respect for the event. Less physically rigorous than, say, swimming or gymnastics, it nevertheless requires the same level of concentration and degree of skill and dedication as other sports, something that Beau does not at first appreciate, but that Marcel will see to it that he understands. Distracted by his mad passion for jocks and his complicated relationship with his coach, Beau doesn’t realize that in yearning just to qualify for a spot on an Olympic team—any team—with little hope of winning a medal or any acclaim, he exemplifies, if unwittingly, the spirit of the Games. For as no less an authority than the Olympic Creed proclaims, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” But when he fights too well with Marcel, will Beau still get to take part? Or has he conquered his own chance at realizing his Olympic dream?
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