"I guess Dad thinks that stuff motivates us," says Desiree. "But I think he does it because he lacks self-control."
In July, Ficker and his wife, Annette, a former nun, showed up in Ambler, Pa., to watch their kids compete in the AAU junior track and field regionals. (Two weeks later he would be in Barcelona to harass the Dream Team.) As 10-year-old Flynn Ficker ran his heat in the 800, our man in the Bullet cap prowled the infield. "Flyynnnn!" Robin yelled. "You're falling asleep! Go! Go! Go!"
Desiree heckled back: "He doesn't need you standing around yelling at him!"
Ficker ignored her: "Flyynnnn! Have you got a temperature? You waiting for a bus? Kick it in, Flynn!"
"He's already going as fast as he can!" Desiree yelled.
Ficker ignored her: "Flyynnnn! Flyynnnn!"
"Dad, will you shut up?" she screamed.
"But it helps," he said meekly. Flynn finished dead last. Desiree would now run her heat in the 800. "You guys need encouragement," Ficker said.
"No, we don't!" Desiree corrected him.