The Golden Prize

by Craig Hubler — No one on the Olympic ice skating committee had ever come across the name of Mai Soo Kim, but what they had before them was impressive enough. Going over the list of ladies singles contestants who had qualified to compete, the committee had seen Mai Soo Kim’s name and drawn a complete blank.

“Really now,” implored the chairman, “at this level of competition, surely at least one of you has seen this young woman skate?” There was a brief uncomfortable silence as those present looked at one another with nothing but blank stares.

“Well, sir,” the secretary finally said, “the only thing we have besides her application is a video of a previous performance.”

After another ten minutes, during which the footage was played, all agreed she was a most accomplished skater—certainly more than adequate for competition. A few more queries and checks, and she was entered, and then she was for the most part forgotten.
*
Months passed, and the much-awaited Olympics opened with the usual fanfare. Some days later, and to the surprise of many, Mai Soo found herself placed in the top ten skating contestants. Suddenly the world was abuzz. All of the networks began to dig up anything they could find on her, yet all came away with maddeningly little. Interviews with her were polite, yes, but she seemed distant and gave out little of use to any reporter. The video clips that the committee held were distributed throughout the media, who made bleak attempts to put together any kind of segment to show the world just who this young woman was. There was not much to show, but then again, few expected her to medal.

And no one in the world expected what she had in store for her final program.

As Mai Soo took to the ice for her final skate, commentators again speculated and played up what little they knew. As with all skaters, she had submitted an outline of the various moves she would be attempting. Music drifted across the ice, and the lithe young woman began her long program.

“A good, clean skate,” was how most reported it as she conducted her performance. Nothing spectacular, but technically flawless. Then, just before the end, Mai Soo Kim did something that stunned everyone.

It is generally known in the world of professional ice skating that a triple axel performed correctly takes an average of 1.2 seconds. Mai Soo Kim’s … took three. The difference was so bewildering to the judges and the audience that an audible, unanimous sigh was let out in the arena, broadcast to the entire world. Its effect was stunning, and it secured for Mai Soo Kim, despite all of the previous and following performances by other skaters, the gold medal.

The crowd cheered the new champion as the reward was placed around her neck while the appropriate anthem was played, yet instead of smiles or tears, most who watched that day would remember only a faraway look in the skater’s eyes. Reporters scrambled feverishly to interview her after, yet she was nowhere to be found. Mai Soo had slipped away …
*
Far above the earth, hidden from view, a most unusual ship took on a beautiful young woman. Walking briskly to the bridge, she met its captain, saluted, and removed the shiny gold medal from around her neck. “Mission accomplished, sir,” she said as she handed the prize to her superior.

“Finally,” spoke captain Vartoo. “I’ve always wanted to see one of these. Well done, Mai Soo, well done!”

Craig Hubler is a local metal sculptor and serves as a city council member in Sand City. His short story collection, “Surprise, Seventeen Short Stories to ExerciseYour Eyebrows,” can be purchased online through Amazon or wherever books are sold.

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