Queer Books Unbound Birthday Extravaganza: Guest Post by Elyse Springer
Heya! We’re back with a really super duper awesome post by Elyse Springer, author of the Seasons of Love series and Heels Over Head!
Both Jude and I are huge fans of Heels Over Head, so naturally we were over the moon when Elyse suggested an ESPN style interview with Jeremy Reeve and Brandon Evans for our blog birthday celebrations!
And seriously, fans of the book don’t want to miss it, because it also answer the question if or if not Jeremy won a medal at the Olympics at the end of the book – we know that a lot of readers wanted to know that! 😉
Jeremy Reeve is one of the best divers in the world, and he’s worked hard to get where he is. He intends to keep pushing himself with one very clear goal in mind: winning gold at the summer Olympics in two years. That medal might be the only way to earn his father’s respect as an athlete.
Brandon Evans is everything Jeremy isn’t: carefree, outgoing, and openly gay. With his bright-blue eyes and dramatic tattoos, he’s a temptation that Jeremy refuses to acknowledge. But Jeremy can’t ignore how talented Brandon is—or that Brandon has no interest in using his diving skills to compete.
They’re opposites who are forced to work together as teammates, but Jeremy’s fear of his own sexuality and Brandon’s disinterest in anything “not fun” may end their partnership before it begins. Until a single moment changes everything, and they help each other discover that “team” can also mean family and love.
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ESPN: Let’s start with the interview you did for Sports Illustrated a couple of months ago, where you quietly announced to the world that you’re gay.
JR: Okay, well—
BE: Wait. That’s where we’re going to start? Seriously?
It’s immediately obvious that I’ve made a mistake.
In front of me are Jeremy Reeve and Brandon Evans, the up and coming stars of professional diving. Reeve has been a recognizable face in the sport for years, and was a strong favorite to compete for the United States at the Olympics four years ago. He’s blond and pale, and right now he’s rolling his eyes with what can only be described as “fond exasperation”. Beside him is Evans, who took the diving world by storm when he appeared out of nowhere two years ago. His dark hair and dark skin make him a fitting complement to Reeve… as does the annoyed expression on his face.
As I said— clearly I’ve messed up.
JR: C’mon Bran, you knew we were going to be talking about this today.
BE: Sure, but I kinda figured we’d started with the important stuff first.
JR: Like what?
BE: I dunno, babe, how about that medal hanging around your neck right now?
Ah, now I understand. It’s not annoyance that I’m seeing on Brandon Evans’ face… it’s fierce pride.
ESPN: Alright, let’s talk about Toronto. Obviously a big moment for you, Jeremy, after a shoulder injury forced you to pull out of the competition four years ago.
JR: It was everything I’d dreamt about my entire life, you know? Being in Toronto, getting to stand on that 10 meter platform and compete for my country… yeah, I guess you could say it was a huge moment for me. [Laughs] I was pretty devastated when I didn’t qualify for the last Olympics, but coming into Toronto I knew I was healthy and ready to go.
ESPN: Brandon, there was a moment during the semifinal round when Jeremy visibly hesitated before his fourth dive. A lot of people thought nerves had gotten the best of him, especially with the spectacular armstand dive that Chinese diver Chen Xiang had just completed moments before. But you were caught on camera laughing, completely unconcerned. What was going through your mind there?
BE: That was his twister, right? Back two and a half somersaults, one and a half twists. We do the same dive in our synchro competitions, and it’s my favorite one to do. But before we do the dive, Jeremy always says it aloud and makes sure I’m ready to go before he counts down. I knew he was going to nail the dive, because he’s just that good and we do it so often, so I just assumed he was silently saying the dive aloud and counting down… like he would if we were diving side by side.
JR: I definitely was a little nervous. But yeah, I kinda just paused to savor the moment, and think about how much I enjoyed doing that dive with Brandon. And to know that he was watching me do it, so I definitely couldn’t screw up or he’d never let me hear the end of it! [Laughs]
It’s clear as day that both of these young men are on the same wavelength. It’s in the way they look at each other as they talk, having an entire silent conversation with just their eyes. It’s also visible in the way they dive together; the entire diving world was taken by surprise when the two of them won gold at the Winter National Championships last year. Sylvia Brass, who coached the U.S. Women’s Diving team to gold eight years ago, said afterwards, “That kind of victory is only possible with partners who know each other intimately. They understand one another. You can’t win in synchronized diving unless you and your partner think the same.”
There was another moment during the Olympics, though, that caused chatter among viewers and analysts alike. This one came after the event had ended and the medals had been awarded.
ESPN: You sparked some controversy following the medal ceremony by saying that you didn’t care about winning, and that you were only at the Olympics because you owed it to your team. A lot of people were upset with that comment, believing it showed a lack of good sportsmanship. Some even argued that you should have forfeited your medal.
JR: Those comments were taken out of context, but I’ve long-since realized that I can’t control what people think about me. What I said at the time was that I dive because I love the sport. Winning used to be the only thing I cared about, but now I know there’s more to life than chasing another victory. So while I was honored to stand on that podium, the win itself wasn’t important. I wanted to win for my team, for Andrey [Fedorov, former Russian Olympic Team coach] and Val [Bergmann, his trainer]. And for Brandon, of course. But as long as I can keep diving with them, that’s important. Getting to hug them afterwards—getting to be congratulated by Brandon—that’s all that matters.
ESPN: Let’s talk about the picture then, shall we?
BE: I have that picture framed in our apartment back in Ohio. I wanted to get it blown up poster-size and hang it in the bedroom, but Jeremy wouldn’t let me. So now it’s framed on the wall of the living room.
The picture is one that went viral on social media, racking up hundreds of thousands of views and retweets in the days that followed: Evans sweeping Reeve off his feet and kissing him in front of millions of television viewers, Reeve’s gold medal glinting brilliantly between them.
ESPN: People love a good story, and it seems like the entire world wants to know yours. You’ve trained together for a couple of years now, and recently started competing in synchronized diving competitions, but how did you get from partners to, well, partners? Was it love at first sight?
JR: Actually, we pretty much hated each other when we first met.
BE: [Laughs] We didn’t get along at all. Total clash of personalities. We both had very different priorities and plans for the future, and it took everything Andrey had to keep us focused on diving and not biting each other’s heads off.
JR: I can remember the first time I thought of Brandon as a possible friend, and not just this annoying guy I had to put up with. It was in March, about a year and a half ago. We were training non-stop for the World Series, which would be our first time competing as synchro partners. It had been pretty much a disaster so far, but one day we did this practice dive and it just—it clicked, you know?
BE: I remember that. There was an unspoken “us against the world” mentality. We were going in as the underdogs; I’d never competed professionally before, and could barely rip a landing to save my life. Jer was obviously so much better, but nobody expected us to win, or even place above last. But suddenly we were discovering that there was this chemistry between us, y’know? And then it was like, “Wait, we can do this.”
ESPN: A lot has changed since the first World Series event in Moscow. These days you’re the faces of USA Diving. But you’re also the faces of the growing movement to encourage queer professional athletes to come out. Did you ever see yourself in this position?
BE: Definitely not. I didn’t even know what a ‘pike’ was a few years ago, and I definitely never thought I’d be competing in all of these huge events around the world. But I did always want to make a difference as an out gay man—that’s was definitely a dream. I came out to my family when I was eighteen, and it didn’t go well. I never really had a gay icon to look up to.
JR: For me it was the opposite. When I was a kid I remember seeing this television special about Greg Louganis. They kept calling him “the greatest diver in history”. And I remember thinking, “I want to be just like him. I want to be the best there is.” So there was always that desire—to be the face of the sport. But I was in the closet my entire life, always so afraid of what coming out might bring. It wasn’t until I had Brandon in my life that I found the courage to accept who I am.
ESPN: On that note, tell us about the text message.
JR: Oh, the text. So a year ago Brandon sent me a text message just before the finals round at the World Championships. It said something like, “You’re way better than Greg Louganis”. And of course I wasn’t—I’m not. But it was the first time someone had shown that kind of faith in me.
BE: He won gold at that event, by the way. With the prettiest back four somersaults dive you’ve ever seen.
JR: So before the finals in Toronto, Brandon sent me another text. And it just said, “I love you. I believe in you. See you at the podium, babe.”
BE: He won gold at that event also, by the way.
ESPN: So what’s next for you two?
JR: We’re going to keep diving of course. We’re both done with university now, but we’re planning to stay in Ohio and start preparing for the next round of competitions. I’ve been asked to help coach the university diving team.
BE: And I made this guy a promise, but it’s going to take roughly another four years to fulfil.
Elyse is an author and world-traveler, whose unique life experiences have helped to shape the stories that she wants to tell. She writes romances with LGBTQ+ characters and relationships, and believes that every person deserves a Happily Ever After. When she’s not staring futilely at her computer screen, El spends her time adding stamps to her passport, catching up on her terrifying TBR list, and learning to be a better adult.
She’s always happy to chat with other readers, and you can find her online at:
http://elspringer.com / @ElyseSpringer / Facebook
Genre: Contemporary Pairing: M/M Queer Books Unbound 3rd Birthday Extravaganza! Self Published Tag: Enemies to Lovers Tag: Guest Post Tag: Interview Tag: Sports Elyse Springer Heels Over Head
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