August 24, 2004
Changing room, Olympic Velodrome, Athens
Women’s sprint cycling Olympicg old medal race
Just on the other side of an unpainted metal door, five thousand men, women, and children were chanting her name. Zoe Castle didn’t like it as much as she’d thought she would. She was twenty-four years old and she sat where her coach told her to sit, beside him, on a thin white bench with the blue protective film still on it.
“Don’t touch the door,” he said. “It’s alarmed.”
It was just the two of them in the tiny subterranean changing room. The walls were freshly plastered, and little hardened curds of the stuff lay on the cement floor where they’d fallen from the trowel. Zoe kicked at one. It came detached, skittered away, and dinged against the metal door.
“What?” said her coach.
Zoe shrugged. “Nothing.”
When she’d visualized success -- when she’d dared to imagine making it this far -- the floors and the walls of every building in Athens had been Platonic surfaces, hewn from an Olympic material that glowed with inner light. The air had not smelled of drying cement. There hadn’t been this white plastic document wallet on the floor, containing the manufacturer’s installation guide for the air-conditioning unit that stood, partially connected, in the corner of the room.
Her coach saw her expression and grinned. “You’re ready. That’s the main thing.”
She tried to smile back. The smile came out like a newborn foal: its legs buckled immediately.
Overhead, the public stamped its feet in time. The start was overdue. Air horns blared. The room shook; it was so loud that her back teeth buzzed in her jaw. The noise of the crowd was liquidizing her guts. She thought about leaving the velodrome by the back door, taking a taxi to the airport, and flying home on the first available jet. She wondered if she would be the first Olympian ever to do that simple, understandable thing: to quietly slope off from Olympus. There must be something she could do with herself, in civilian life. Magazines loved her. She looked good in clothes. She was beautiful, with her glossy black hair cropped short and her wide green eyes set in the pale, haunted face of an early European saint. There was the slightest touch of cruelty in the line of her lips, a hint of steel in the set of her face that caused the eye to linger. Maybe she should do something with that. She could give interviews, laughing backstage after the show when the journalist asked did she know she looked quite a lot like that British girl who ran off from the Olympics - what was her name again? Ha! she would say. I get that question all the time! And by the way, whatever did become of that girl?
Her coach’s breathing was slow and even.
“Well you seem okay,” said Zoe.
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Just another day at the office, right?”
“Correct,” said Tom. “We’re just clocking in to do our job. I mean, what do you want -- a medal?”
Copyright © 2012 by Chris Cleave
Gold is the story of three friends, Zoe, Jack and Kate, each world-class cyclists training for their last chance at Olympic glory. But their battles don't end on the slick track of the Velodrome because Jack and Kate's daughter, Sophie, is battling a recurrence of childhood leukemia that puts a strain on training, as well as their friendship.
They've grown up together, loving, fighting, consoling and forgiving. Now on the eve of London 2012, Zoe and Kate will be tested to their physical and emotional limits. They must confront each other and their own mortality to decide if, when lives are at stake, they could give up the thing they most cherish for the sake of the people they love. What will they do with everything on the line?
Hardcover Book : 336 pages
Publisher: Simon And Schuster, Inc. ( July 03, 2012 )
Item #: 13-542974
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 x 0.76inches
Product Weight: 13.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)