Posted inEditor's Pick

The Olympian Who Believes He’s Always On TV

Mary Pilon | Bloomsbury | March 6, 2018 | 3,775 words
Posted inBooks, Nonfiction, Sports, Story

The Olympian Who Believes He’s Always On TV

An Olympic sailor suffering from Truman Show Disorder attempts to wrest control away from the Director.
Ajeet Mestry

Mary PilonThe Kevin Show: An Olympic Athlete’s Battle with Mental Illness | Bloomsbury | March 2018 | 14 minutes (3,775 words)

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you.” –The Velveteen Rabbit

As Kevin Hall stood onboard the Artemis, a 72-foot catamaran, trying to help his teammates dredge Andrew Simpson’s body out of the water, he wasn’t entirely sure if the scene unfolding before him was really happening or not.

Andrew “Bart” Simpson, whose body might or might not have been in the water, was a stocky British Olympic gold medalist with short, spiky chestnut hair and a wide smile. One of the world’s best sailors, Simpson knew what to do in emergencies, which made his being trapped underwater for ten minutes all the more incomprehensible. The $140-million Artemis was supposed to be a technological wonder, so it made no sense to anyone onboard that it had crumpled so quickly into a taco shell, trapping Simpson in its fold.

Finally, Kevin and his teammates were able to pull Simpson’s soggy two hundred pounds out of the water and onto a floating backboard.

The emergency responders began to perform CPR, one officer cutting open Simpson’s wetsuit so he could apply a defibrillator to his chest. They pushed, the sailors waiting for Simpson to breathe, to show some sign of life. But Simpson was dead. He was 36 years old.

Months of preparation and millions of dollars had gone into the design of the Artemis, a vessel that had stunned other sailors with its foils and gadgets and that had seemed almost to fly over the water. Kevin suddenly felt lost. What had happened? Who, if anyone, was to blame? And why had Simpson, of all the sailors on the boat, been the one to die? Kevin had known Simpson for years, their sailing careers often overlapping, intersecting, and running in parallel. Simpson had something that Kevin and some of the other men on board the Artemis did not — an Olympic gold medal — and he represented something that all of the men on board aspired to be: a champion athlete and family man with a kind heart and generous spirit, seemingly unfazed by the success that he had attained.

Kevin thought about all this and more as the emergency workers took Simpson’s body away and everyone went home. In the days that followed, part of him wanted to talk to his teammates about what had happened, but part of him dared not. Because, if he was honest, he still wasn’t entirely sure that the crash and Simpson’s death had really happened. It seemed too horrifying to be real. And for a few moments, there had been that flash.

The Director. Cameras. Actors. Scripts.

Kevin wondered: Had it all just been part of The Show?

Continue reading “The Olympian Who Believes He’s Always On TV”