During player introductions for an international touring Dream Team on which both women played this summer, they staged a skit. To the tune of I Want It That Way, Mia strode onto the court escorted by a man, Camilla dropped to one knee before her as if proposing marriage, then Mia delivered a flying kick, flattening her "beau," and pogoed into Camilla's arms. Perhaps you had to be there.
One day they would threaten to boycott the media and even quit their sport as they begged journalists to stop blaring their private life. The next day there would be Camilla on a magazine cover, making bold pronouncements. "I am crazy about Mia, and I am proud to be married to her," she told Denmark's Tjeck magazine in a cover story last month. "On one hand, I want to shout it out to the world, and on the other hand, I do not want to see myself on the front pages.... I would never dream of provoking other people by, for example, kissing in public. I have learned to live with it, that some people do not accept that two girls can be lovers.... I find it unbelievable that we in an enlightened society like Denmark's can have a strange limitation preventing two girls or single women from having children. [Mia and I] do not worry much about that, though. One also crosses the road once in a while when the light is red."
But the overriding question, as the ramifications of sleeping with the enemy began stirring in the Scandinavian psyche, remained the Olympics. Egad! Would Mia and Camilla play their hardest, knowing that one's ecstasy must come at the other's angst? The question astonished Mia, whose putter became a hammer on each hole that she failed to ace in putt-putt wars with Camilla. Even as an eight-year-old, she had turned decks of playing cards into shrapnel when she lost to her dad, and had insisted that her parents transfer her out of a private school because it didn't give grades—Mia had to have scoreboard. "The more you know someone, the more you want to beat them," she cries, her fist smacking her palm. "It's like when you play your wife in cards—don't you want to [smack!] beat her?"
But what about loose lips, the press demanded, a concern fueled by an erroneous report that Norway's coach feared Mia would spill team tactics to Camilla. "We don't even talk about handball," says Camilla. "Besides, both teams already know each others' tactics very well."
But, gosh, shouldn't precautions be taken to keep them apart in the Olympic Village? "We become happier and better players if we can be together," Camilla told reporters back home. "Of course, that will only be in appropriate times."
No one slammed them publicly. Mankind, at least in its northernmost outposts, seemed to have climbed a rung or two, past damnation, but not beyond titillation. Mia grew afraid to buy a newspaper, fearful of the next sensational story. "It screws with your mind," she says, "but I'm sure I'll see things much clearer when I'm older because I have gone through all of this."
Camilla wasn't so sure. "It's getting deeper and deeper," she says. "It hurts. We both have good families that we've stayed close with. If I was Marion Jones, making millions of dollars, it would be worth all this. But I'm not."
A few days before the Games, at which both women had vowed not to discuss their marriage, the Danish Olympic Committee noticed that mention of the women's relationship had sneaked into Camilla's bio file on the Olympics computer service. They demanded its removal, the Sydney Organizing Committee refused, but the IOC stepped in and censored the file: What if 15,000 journalists showed up for a first-round team handball match?
In the end, that's how the two women felt anyway, as if the eyes of the world were drilling holes in them. Surely, Camilla kept thinking, her numbing self-consciousness would dissipate a few minutes into the game, her 200 games' worth of experience on her national team would kick in, and the action would sweep her off into the same mindless stream of motion, instinct and sweat that it had since she was a little girl. But it never did.
She and Mia knew they would trip a machine-gun burst of cameras and land mines of ink if they neared each other on the court, and so they hardly ever did. "I worried about everything I did out there," Camilla said after the game. "What should I do, what should I say? Should I go hit Mia to prove they're wrong? I should be able to control this by now, but I can't. You can't control feelings. I felt like I was here and my body was over there. I felt the cameras on me like a hawk. I played the worst game of my life. I just want to have the feeling of playing like a child again."