Wednesday surely looked like a dark day on the mountain. After a startling shot across the bow from the athletes from Nowhere in Particular, Team LeConte sluggishly fell behind two gold medals to open Wednesday's final day of the LeConte Games. The heroes from the top of Tennessee would have to suffer the shame of losing the LeConte Games on their home mountain.
Down two medals nearing the end of the Games, Team LeConte would have to sweep both events and keep the acclaimed stars from Nowhere in Particular off the medal stand to even have a shot at tying. Vegas wouldn't even issue odds on a feat so hurculean. A pall settled across LeConte followed by a shroud of disappointment and shame. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Closing Ceremony.
Nathan entered the egg-box weightlifting competition. He thrust the yolks skyward in defiance of the defeat surely coming Team LeConte's way. His opponent didn't fare so well and ended up a little scrambled. But Nathan's win was not without controversy. A postcompetition drug test administered to the victor revealed a curiously strong substance in his bloodstream. LeConte Games officials withheld his gold medal until the chief drug tester could be consulted. A thorough analysis revealed the powerful concoction was no illegal substance but Tang, served with breakfast every day at LeConte Lodge. "If Tang's good enough to get an astronaut to the moon, then it's good enough for me," Nathan said.
With Nathan's gold-medal validated, Team LeConte had only one more chance to score in the equestrian jumping events. But the news gets darker because the next to last event was the llama trough hurdles, and Team LeConte had no one entered in the race. Meanwhile, all the hurdler from Nowhere in Particular had to do was finish the race, claim her gold and vanquish Team LeConte's hopes of tying the Games in the final event. A win by the hurdler from Nowhere in Particular would put her squad up two medals with only one event remaining and doom Team LeConte to an impossible mission.
All Team LeConte could do was focus on putting on a brave face and making a good showing in the equestrian jumping event. Trainer Chrissy and rider Mitch were brushing down Pete, the LeConte llama, before the event when they discovered Pete was missing his prerace pancake. Upon hearing Pete's predicament, John, who was done with his competition, sprinted toward the kitchen to retrieve the pancake. At that instant, the starting gun sounded for the hurdles and the hurdler from Nowhere in Particular was left behind in John's wake as he cleared each hurdle cleanly on Pete's pancake mission. The officials consulted and determined John had clearly beaten his rival and the gold should be awarded to Team LeConte, which brings us to a tie going into the final event of the LeConte Games.
The equestrian jumping events have always been a strong suit for the team from Nowhere in Particular, and they harbored no doubt that their fine horse, Blueblood, would wipe the trail with Pete, Team LeConte's lowly llama. Team Nowhere in Particular would surely sip champagne and celebrate winning the equestrian event and, thus, the entire LeConte Games on their opponent's home mountain.
But the rider from Nowhere in Particular didn't know Pete. After eating his lucky prerace pancake, Pete worked up the most vile llama spit this ancient mountain has ever seen. Sensing a victory and immortal glory, Blueblood pranced a little too close to Pete, who launched his llama spit with the skill of a Top Gun pilot right into Blueblood's eyes. With Mitch in the saddle, Pete skillfully navigated every jump. After the race Pete attributed his expert form to another elder LeConte llama, Earl. A fine but crafty llama, Earl is best known for leaping a six-foot-tall fence to freedom every time the llama wrangler goes to fetch him for a day's work on LeConte.
Blueblood never had a chance to match Pete's wondrous performance as the multimillion dollar horse crashed through each hurdle with Pete's caustic llama spit still burning his eyes. With that, Team LeConte hoisted glasses of Tang and toasted their good fortune, bragging rights for four years and the most unlikely sweet victory in the LeConte Games.
In real Olympic news, I'd like to congratulate Aries Merritt, my friend and another former colleague from the University of Tennessee, on his fastest preliminary time in the 110-meter hurdles Tuesday night. The world leader, Aries ran a 13.07-second scorcher to qualify for Wednesday's semifinal. I'll be rooting for him today from the top of Tennessee.
Now for the weather report. Tuesday's high reached 66 with a low of 53. We totaled 0.12 inches of rain to continue the theme of a damp July and August. In something that may be of interest only to me, the temperature at observation (about 6:40 a.m. when I radio in the weather to the park service) has been 57 or 58 for the last seven days. It does make for nice sleeping weather.
Allyson and Chris have returned to the mountain, so you'll be shed of me for a while on High on LeConte. Thanks for rooting on Team LeConte the last three days. More important, thanks for being so friendly when you come up to visit. We all appreciate it. Happy trails.
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