By Dominic Cobello, Mike Agassi, Kate Shoup Welsh, Andre Agassi
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Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of play, the exhausted shah plucked the letter from his seat, sat down, read it, looked at me, and nodded. The next day, I was invited to the Olympic training camp. y On the morning of our scheduled departure for London, the government sent a bus around to convey all the athletes on the Iranian squad and their families to Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport. When it came for me, I lugged my bag — which was stuffed to the gills with clothes and food for a family friend who was attending school in London — onto the bus with my mother, my father, and my brother Issar in tow.
Lying on my mattress at night or walking to school with my brothers, I sifted through the game in my mind, analyzing why the ball behaved the way it did, dissecting the techniques players used to make it behave differently. After church, after school, or whenever I had a spare moment, I watched those soldiers play, and whenever a ball went astray, I chased it down in exchange for some candy or chewing gum. Before long, I gladly assumed the responsibility of maintaining the courts, pressing them with a heavy roller, sweeping them clean, and watering them to pack down the dirt.
Before that, I’d only tasted those two cookies at the shah’s palace; sweets at home were limited to raisins, dates, things like that. I went a little crazy even though I was due to weigh in the next day — fortunately, I didn’t blow my weight class. Later, we shook hands with the King and Queen of England. King George spoke to me, but I didn’t speak English, so I could only nod dumbly before being escorted away. As a participating athlete, I was allowed into any event I wanted to watch, and could use the buses and subways for free.