With six months until the Olympic Games, seventeen-year-old Harper's life is pretty much perfect. She's fighting for the starting spot on Team USA Women's Hockey, and for the first time ever, she has a crush on a guy who likes her back. She feels like the luckiest girl in the world, until she runs a risky play at practice and breaks her knee, thereby sentencing herself to six weeks in a cast and possibly ending her Olympic dream before it even starts. For seventeen-year-old Alex, being anything less than the best is unacceptable. That's why, after a miserable debut season at the senior level, the former junior national singles champion switches to ice dance. Her skating partner, Ace, is an "all skating all the time" type of guy, which would be fine, if he'd stop keeping secrets about the real reason he and his former partner broke up. Now is not the time for second thoughts, but how can Alex skate her best if she can’t trust her partner…or herself? As the pressure to make the Olympic team builds, the girls must rely on each other, because if there’s one thing they both know, it's that the only thing harder than skating to the top is staying there.
Ace knocks a couple minutes later.
"He-ll-o, Juliet," he says.
"Wrong routine, Genius."
"Oh, that's right. We already kicked butt at that one."
Ace and I are sitting in fifth place, by the narrowest of narrow margins. Lindsay and Cory are behind us in sixth, 1.22 points back.
"Have you ever seen such a narrow margin in the Olympics?"
"No," he says. "That's crazy close, eh?" He sits down on my bed. This is the first time he's been in my room here.
"How'd you know that was my bed?"
"All the pink." He tosses a pillow at me. I brought two of my pillows with me to make this place feel a little more like home — my OTC home, not my Connecticut home. That place hasn't felt like home since I left, maybe even before that.
"Well, make yourself comfortable because we need to talk strategy."
"World domination strategy?"
"Would you stop joking? And yes, if we win the Olympics that would sort of be like world domination."
"Sorry. Jokes are just how I deal with the stress," he says. "I don't know what you want to strategize about. We need to skate as well as we can. Hopefully as well as we did at Nationals. Obviously this is a much bigger competition."
"Okay, what score do you think we'll need to make the podium?"
"At least tie our PB from Nationals to have a chance, but ideally higher. It's gonna be tough, Alex."
"No one ever said winning an Olympic medal would be easy."
"Look, I know you like to de-stress by crunching numbers, but if you try to predict everyone's scores, you're going to drive yourself crazy, lose sleep, and it will all be for nothing, so how about another kind of crunching numbers?"
He shifts his weight to his side, digging his elbow into the mattress and pulls a deck of cards out of the back pocket of his jeans.
"Poker. If you win, we do a spy routine next year. If I win, it's a western theme."
"Western? What am I going to wear? Daisy Dukes?"
"You better win then."
Beth Pond graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Hendrix College in 2012. In 2013, she taught in South Africa for 9 months as part of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Grant. Pond is currently completing her coursework at the University of British Columbia’s Creative Writing MFA program. Her debut novel, Podium Finish, was released from Astraea Press in November 2013. When she’s not writing, Pond enjoys martial arts (she’s a black belt) and serving as a volunteer coach for her brother’s special needs baseball team.
Podium Finish is unlike any other book I have read, period. It is amazing that Ms. Pond could take two very different characters who are pursuing two completely different sports and tie them together as roommates at the Olympic Training Center. ~Crystal, Books are Sanity
This is a great, fun book! This story is really 2 stories in one - bonus! ~Shelley Walker, Goodreads This book was truly enjoyable to read. ~Michele, Amazon Review
Podium Finish is one of the best books I have read in a very long time. I couldn't put it down once I started reading it. ~Ana, Amazon Reviewer
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