I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but we met a bunch of celebrities. Vince Vaughn partied with us. Steve Byrne, the comedian. And at some point we decided to take the party back to the village, so we started talking to the security guards, showed off our gold medals, got their attention and snuck our group through without credentials - which is absolutely unheard of. I may have snuck a celebrity back to my room without anybody knowing, and snuck him back out. But that’s my Olympic secret.
— That’s USA women’s soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo talking about her time at the 2008 Olympics (via the ESPN).
I see a lot of Zoe, the fiery bicycle racer from Chris Cleave’s novel Gold, in the whole ESPN article, but also in this passage in particular. There’s the sense of world-class athletes having an “on” mode, when they’re completely focused on training, and an “off” mode, where partying knows few limits, and the extreme differences between them.
Solo covers her sexual escapade with the phrase “Olympic secret,” which implies a sort of “what happens in the Olympic village, stays in the Olympic village” moral code. Zoe too doesn’t want her nameless one night stand trumpeted (and calls her agent when she’s sees evidence on Facebook).
Finally there’s the use of the Olympic gold medals as a symbol of being elite or deserving of something. Solo and her friends use them to get past a guard (and in the beginning of the ESPN story Josh Lakatos gets into an house past a housekeeper) while Zoe’s mystery man finds and poses with her golds in photos as a symbol of what he’s conquered.
It’s interesting to see how Olympic-level training affects a person’s psyche, especially in regards to sexuality. Do you think it’s part of what makes Zoe so unhappy as of page 88? Does Hope Solo’s and the other athletes’ quirky stories in the ESPN story represent the fun side of the same coin?
— Sam Schlinkert