Danny Schaer is a Swiss figure skater who is high in the elite circuit of competitors. He wins his final Juniors competition and ascends into the Seniors field with high expectations, and a connection to the darling of the ice, Andrei Lebed. Danny is gay, but doesn’t want to come out, fearing that prejudiced judges could destroy him before he ever makes a name for himself. Interestingly, Danny finds Andrei to be in a similar predicament. And, he senses that Noah Favre, a fellow Swiss ice dancer, may also lean in this direction. But, Danny is focused on skating, and he doesn’t have time for romance or what might be a relationship. At first.
The Silver Medalist is an interesting and engaging coming of age, professional athlete story. The book actually spans years in Danny’s life, from age 16 until his early 20s. We get to follow his training and competitions as he completes his secondary schooling, gets his first apartment and his first long-time sexual partner, competes at the Olympics, and later as he finds discreet men with whom he can couple. Sometimes this is Andrei, when they are in the same town for competitions. Top scoring Andrei names Danny to be his foil, the one he strives always to surpass, knowing that Danny is an amazing competitor. They develop a healthy friendship with some level of rivalry, with the utmost respect. And, they have incendiary sex, but neither thinks they are suited to become a couple and they can’t really connect enough to facilitate that, anyway.
What changes is the Noah begins to warm to the idea of sex with Danny. He’s been attracted to him from the beginning of their acquaintance, but Noah is even deeper in the closet than Danny—and he’s not willing to risk any indiscretion ruining his chances at Olympic gold. Danny isn’t going to wait for Noah, though, and when they do connect, it’s understood that they are not exclusive, because Noah is unwilling to lay any claims—not that Danny wants to come out. When he is outed, however, he wants to lean on Noah for comfort and what had developed between them is definitely jeopardized.
This is not a traditional romance. It’s an accounting of an elite international athlete who grows up and develops the skills to compete at the highest levels—as he also develops his personal life to accommodate his physical needs. Danny’s emotional needs are not easily managed, due to his desire to remain closeted. He’s totally attracted to Noah, but Noah’s self-loathing derails their growth as a couple, for a long time. I really liked Danny, and I really connected with his life and choices. His heartbreak in skating as well as in romance were relatable, and not overstated. The pacing of the story is tight, with hardly any words wasted in the interim periods between life events or major competitions. The relationships Danny cultivates are mostly healthy, and he’s good friends with most of his lovers. His coach is a great guy and the rivalry/bromance with Alexei was fun and intriguing. I loved how Danny took charge of his story, and redefined himself in ways that removed prejudice from his professional experience. Though a perennial silver medalist, Danny is a total champion in his life to this point, and he does find love at the end.