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"I didn't have to sprint all out," he was saying, only slightly winded. "I almost coasted the last hundred feet." Nance Herman, associate editor of Skate magazine, asked Peterson, "How do you feel about people who say, 'Before the Pan-Ams, Tom was a nice guy, but boy has he gotten a big head'?"
"That's O.K.," he said. "I don't live for those people. I don't think I'm too bad a guy. I do have a lot of confidence, but it's because I've spent a lot of hours watching the sweat drop to the ground."
A television reporter, this one from West Germany, came by. "Excuse me, Tom," he said, "I need to know your age and your profession."
"I'm...a student...and I'm nineteen."
Herman said, "Why do you get younger every time you're, asked that question?"
"I discontinued having birthdays when I was young. I said to God one day—"
"God, can I always stay eighteen?" Herman interjected.
"—and God justified my fibbing about my age. But only about that."
The TV reporter edged away.
Peterson later extended himself so far as to say that he was a part-time business student at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, Calif., and that he hoped to operate a skating rink someday, but he didn't say when it was that he had spoken to God. It could have been risky. As he had told Herman, "I played around with skating when I was a baby, in nineteen—oh, wait a second, I can't give that date, can I?" Peterson never combines how old he was with the concept of when. But he is generous with his whats and wheres, thereby creating a powerful case for predestination. He claims to have been conceived before a skating meet, in Portland's Blue Spruce Motel. His mother, RoLores (her parents are Roger and DoLores), was a skating instructor. RoLores quit teaching on a Saturday, and Tom was born the following Thursday. His custom-printed birth announcement depicted a baby boy wearing roller skates; at nine months, before he could stand, he had been fitted with a tiny pair of skates and was crawling around the floor of grandfather Roger's business establishment, the rink in Tacoma. At three he was entered in the Northwest Regional Championships, seven-and-under division, one lap around the track. He was training one day a week in those days, for 45 minutes. At seven he was the Northwest champion.