"People are ready to crucify him," Dick Kimball said.
Father and coach to Bruce Kimball, he watched from the sidelines Thursday as his expressionless 25-year-old son did all of his 11 qualifying dives without incident. Springboard is not Bruce Kimball's specialty; platform, which begins Saturday, is.
It is unlikely Kimball will qualify for the Olympics in both events, but all of his first-round springboard dives were efficient, and by day's end he stood sixth among a field of 12.
"He did very, very well," Dick Kimball said. "A lot better than he did four years ago at the trials.
"It's been very difficult. It hasn't been easy for him. I think he's really been trying hard to concentrate. I think it was real important to get that first dive in, and once he got that in and saw that there wasn't any (visible or audible protest), he knew everything was going to be all right."
Bruce's teammates have been supportive, his father said. None of them has said anything negative, to him or about him. Not so, though, the MADD woman who shouted "Go home, Bruce!" at his son's news conference Tuesday, or the journalists who, Dick Kimball claims, continue to ignore the darkly lighted, overpopulated scene of the accident, exaggerate the traveling speed of Bruce's auto, refuse to research all the facts.
These facts all will surface at Kimball's arraignment in Florida on Aug. 29, where he is expected to plead not guilty to the charges. Two weeks later, if he is free and entitled to do so, Bruce Kimball would leave for South Korea and the Games if he finishes among the top two at the trials.
For the moment he is free on $10,000 bond, a complete surprise to Bill James, state attorney from Hillsborough County, Fla., and, by sheer happenstance, former equestrian from the 1952 Olympics. James never expected Kimball to keep competing after the tragedy. "I thought he'd announce he was pulling out because of more pressing problems," James said. "It shows he has ice water in his veins."
Or something. Kimball endured after a 1981 accident in his hometown of Ann Arbor, Mich., in which a drunk driver swerved her van directly into his path, smashed into his car and left him with a face that had to be rebuilt from scratch.
A year later, he returned to the same pool at Indiana University for the National Sports Festival, wearing a T-shirt that read: "The Comeback Kid." Kimball placed second to Greg Louganis, who pulled him up to the top pedestal of the victory stand to share the moment of triumph.
Such is what Kimball was referring to Tuesday when he said, with cracking voice and trembling hands: "I've dealt with adversity in my life. I've dedicated 21 years of my life to the sport of diving. I've made incredible sacrifices. I won't give up and I don't give up. I can't live with myself if I do."
Colleagues understood. Wendy Williams, a top U.S. diver, for one, said: "I wish it (the accident) never happened, but we can't let it distract us. He's here, and he isn't letting it distract him." Indeed, practically every diver present, including Louganis, emphasized that they were so focused on their own efforts that they could not take time to be distracted by Kimball's.
Kathryn Owen, on the other hand, was outraged. A MADD member from Hamilton County, Ind., whose daughter Teri, 18, was killed coming home from a high school football game by a drunk driver who got off with a one-year work-release program sentence, Owen is the one who hollered "Go home!" to Kimball at his news conference, and she was still on the premises Thursday to side with the protesters from Florida.
"Nobody knows how it feels until you go see a zippered plastic bag and have identified the broken body of your beautiful child," Owen said. "What he (Kimball) did wasn't an accident. It was a crime. It's arrogant, pompous and self-centered of him to compete. \o7 I work hard. I won't give up\f7 . Hey, he made two people give up permanently. They don't have any choices anymore. They're gone. He took their choices away."
On the night of Aug. 1, on an isolated stretch of highway called Culbreath Road that young people from Brandon use as a hangout and refer to as "The Spot," police say Bruce Kimball's sports car came zooming down the dead-end road. How fast is in question, but he almost certainly was in excess of the posted 25 m.p.h. speed limit. How drunk he was also remains in question, but empty beer cans were found in the car.
Kimball's car at first careened off parked autos, then started hitting bodies. Ken Gossic, 16, was killed. So was Robbie Bedell, 19. While surveying the wreckage afterward, a sheriff's department deputy of 19 years said, "The last time I saw anything like this was in Vietnam."
Kimball was found, virtually uninjured, pounding the ground and screaming: "Why me? Why me?"