"I couldn't get to the ball," Shelda said. "It was all my fault."
Her partner, beside her at the table, suddenly began talking in Portuguese. She talked for maybe a minute, maybe two, rapid and passionate. The translator took a breath and began his work. Adriana, he said, was saying that she was also sorry, more sorry than Shelda. She had had a chance to win that first set twice, but didn't. She should be more sorry. Shelda is the greatest partner, the greatest woman's beach volleyball player in history.
Adriana put out a hand and touched Shelda's shoulder. The two women continued to sit like sad stones. Across all of Australia—indeed, on TV sets around the world—there were cute little stories about this game that looked so different from all the other games. This little piece of fried junk food at the far end of the buffet table, all calories, no vitamins, a tap-your-toe diversion. Here, in this room, check the faces. There was none of that.
This was the Olympics.