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My love affair with the Olympics goes back 40 years, to the summer I was seven and a half years old. It was the Bicentennial, my mom was pregnant with my sister, and I headed off to my first sleepaway camp. Only after I got home did I discover what I’d missed: Nadia Comaneci had scored the first perfect 10s in gymnastics history. I did get to see some of her later performances, including more perfection, and for a while after that—with the short attention span of a typical third grader—I was all about being a gymnast. I have vague memories of walking carefully along the length of a piece of two by four to simulate the balance beam.
My gymnastics performance dreams weren’t meant to be, hampered in large part by a shattered elbow later that year. I never even learned to turn a proper cartwheel because my left arm just didn’t have the strength. That didn’t stop my fangirling, though. I watched Nadia through the rest of her career, and then came 1984 in Los Angeles, with Mary Lou Retton’s perfect ten on the vault to win all-around gold, the women taking team silver, and the men taking team gold. Sure, I watched other sports sometimes, and figure skating in the Winter Games, but gymnastics is what started things off, and it still drives my Olympic interests.
Twenty years ago, I got my shot to be part of the Games. I volunteered for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, my newspaper background landing me an assignment at the press help desk in the Georgia Dome. We had a huge press presence there, with basketball led by the US men’s “Dream Team” on one side of the venue and gymnastics on the other. It’s hard for me to pinpoint a favorite moment from those three weeks. I got to attend the dress rehearsal for the Opening Ceremony, and seeing John Williams conduct the orchestra and hearing Gladys Knight sing “Georgia on My Mind” live are pretty amazing memories.
At the press desk, I met a lot of sports reporters and related people: Marv Albert, Bob Ryan from the Boston Globe, Dan O’Brien, Tim Daggett from the 1984 men’s gymnastics squad. After the men’s basketball team won gold, I high-fived Grant Hill and nearly got run over in the hallway by Shaquille O’Neal (holy cow he is BIG). I didn’t get to go out on the floor to watch any of the events in person—the only event I saw was a baseball game that I bought my own ticket for—but I did get to see most of the gymnastics competition live, thanks to closed-circuit televisions throughout the venue. When Kerri Strug landed that vault to win gold for the US women’s gymnastics team, the whole building erupted. I did manage to get the okay to run out to the floor and watch “The Magnificent Seven” get their gold medal. That’s a pretty big highlight.
One event I was able to watch from the stands: the gymnastics exhibition, hosted by none other than Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner, who had married earlier that year. (Highlight of that event? Russia’s Alexei Nemov stripping his uniform down to the waist before his pommel horse routine. Yowza.)
But above all that, the best moment, the one I have to put at the very top of my list of Olympic memories, was when I got back to the help desk and realized that Nadia and Bart were standing just outside, waiting for their ride back to their hotel. I could not pass up that opportunity. I grabbed a copy of the final results sheet and dashed outside, doing my best to not drip squee all over them as I asked them for autographs. I told Nadia she’s the reason I’m a gymnastics fan, and then told Bart he’s the reason my eight-year-younger sister is. They were very kind and gracious and signed my score sheet, which is now packed away with my other Olympics swag.
I still watch parts of the Olympics every two years. Gymnastics in the summer, figure skating in the winter, some other sports here and there. And I hope someday I might be able to go to the Games again, as a volunteer or just a regular attendee. I love what the Olympics stand for (even when they inevitably mess things up), but I also just love the competition. Watching amazing people do amazing things will never get old.
Title: Tongue & Groove
Author: Shae Connor
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: 08/29/2016
Cover Artist: AngstyG
Genre: Bisexual, Contemporary, Gay, Gay Romance, Romance
Sometimes home is what two hearts make of it.
After fifteen years on the road, rock singer Saul Wilder doesn’t know if he remembers how to stay in one place. While healing from a vocal cord injury, he decides to restore the cozy but neglected Atlanta home his grandmother left him. When home renovation specialist Perry Abrams arrives to assess the job, Saul’s on board with mixing business with a little pleasure. The sex is scorching hot, but the more they learn about each other, the deeper they fall emotionally as well. Trouble is, Saul’s a traveling man and Perry’s a homebody, so finding common ground to share could put the brakes on their relationship before it has a chance to get started.
About Shae ConnorShae Connor lives in Atlanta, where she’s a lackadaisical government worker for a living and writes sweet-hot romance under the cover of night. She’s been making things up for as long as she can remember, but it took her a long time to figure out that maybe she should try writing them down. She’s conned several companies into publishing her work and adds a new notch on her bedpost each time another story is unleashed onto an unsuspecting universe.
A member of the Romance Writers of America and the Rainbow Writers chapter, Shae was first published in 2010 and has a lineup of short stories, novellas, and novels available from Dreamspinner Press, Wilde City Press, MLR Press, and Amber Allure.
Shae is part Jersey, part Irish, and all Southern, which explains why she never shuts up. When she’s not chained to her laptop, she enjoys cooking, traveling, watching baseball, and reading voraciously, and she’s an annual volunteer for the Dragon Con on-site publication, the Daily Dragon. You can find her hanging out on Twitter most any time @shaeconnor, but for the more direct route, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at shaeconnorwrites.com.
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