His teammates and coaches congratulated him and told him that a win was a win was a win. "Champion du monde!" Douglas exclaimed, echoing the meet's announcer. "How's it feel?" Champion of the world. Gutches gathered his winnings together—flowers, a trophy, a couple of gifts and the prize money—and took the bus back to the Hotel Krasnoyarsk. The trip was short, across the Yenisei bridge, through the Siberian night, assorted languages and dispositions and smells filling the confined space of the bus. Champion of the world. Not a bad place, this Krasnoyarsk. Not a bad place at all. Looks a little like the Pacific Northwest. Champion of the world.
At the hotel Gutches stopped for a moment to talk to his grandparents, then hurried to catch an elevator to his room. He slipped though the doors as they closed. The Ukrainian, silver medal around his neck, was already in the car. The scabs on his head were still open. Nobody said a word. No acknowledgment took place. Nothing. The Ukrainian got off at the sixth floor. The champion of the world got off at the eighth.
Russia won the team title. Ukraine was second, Iran third, followed by Turkey and Cuba. The U.S. finished sixth.
The 1998 world championships will be held in Teheran.