Gliding, Provisional Silver
Teddy Bonafacio, born in Sicily in 1900, fancied himself a sportsman from youth. Though too slow of foot for football and too weak of arm for aquatic sports, Teddy, son of famed Sicilian garbage collector Giancarlo “The Bloodtaker” Bonafacio was somehow wealthy enough to compete in motor sports from an astonishingly young age.
And compete he did, winning the famed Coppa Florio in a modified Fiat at the age of 8. The “Mozart of the Motorway” Teddy Bonafacio immediately set his eyes upon the highest prize in sport: the Olympic Gold. In 1916, Teddy set out from Rome to Berlin by auto in order to stake his claim to a medal in the Fifth Olympiad. Though he left Italy with much fanfare, he was stunned to see that no one was present to greet him on the German border. Instead, he had entered a barren war torn wasteland. Though his Consigliere insisted they return south, Teddy, always the showman, replied, “the games must go on.”
Sadly, Teddy was wrong. The 1916 games in Berlin had been cancelled. When he learned of this development he drove himself to the door of Kaiser Wilhelm II demanding an audience. The formerly strong German leader though had been stripped of much of his power by this time. Humiliated, his empire facing ruin, Kaiser would not see the boy. Enraged, Teddy shot the door of the Stadtschloss Palace. The bullet ricocheted off the door and hit his Consigliere in the chest, killing him instantly. Teddy was racked with grief. He screamed, “Motors! A curse upon thy engine god!” and put his Fiat in neutral. He laid beneath the back wheel and allowed it to run him over. Somehow, he survived unhurt.
After the incident at the Stadtschloss, no one heard from Teddy Bonafacio for five years. It is believed he ran directly east on foot through the Eastern Front, then south, through Persia and her empires down into British controlled India. His identity was not discovered until a reporter from the Times of London noticed a strange Italian man next to Mahatma Gandhi at the signing of the new Indian constitution. When asked how he achieved such a role, Teddy said simply, “empires fall not from guns or fuel, but from the will of man.” Teddy remained Gandhi’s Western Council through 1930, when, in the midst of a hunger strike related to the Salt Marches, Bonafacio remembered what he truly hungered for: Olympic Gold. His last words to the Mahatma on his departure from India were, “fear not death, if they strike you down you will become more powerful than probably you already are, or something.”
It took over a year for Teddy to sail home to Sicily, and upon his return he found it a vastly different place than he had remembered. His father “The Bloodtaker” had been killed. The corrupt mechanisms that had allowed him his wealth and power had been dismantled. And winged machines ruled the skies above his childhood villa. Sicily had become the gliding capital of the world. It’s rocky cliffs and Mediterranean breezes made it ideal for non-motorized aerial athletics.
Teddy was fascinated by this new sport, and he decided that it would be his ticket to Olympic gold. So he glided north. One hill at a time. He learned to master the weather, riding thermal after thermal. He arrived back in Berlin five years later. This time the Olympics were not canceled. And gliding was to be the Fuhrer’s marquee event. And Erich “the Black Devil” Hartmann was to be his marquee athlete. Though only 14 at the time, Hartmann had already established himself as the greatest flyer in the Luftwaffe. And Hitler would not have him defeated.
The gliding competition was one of distance. He who flew the farthest from the Berlin-Staaken airfield would be named gliding champion. It was said to be good gliding weather that day, warm and breezy, and when the gliders set off, it was clear that this was a two man glide. Teddy and Erich caught thermal after thermal, and had maintained initial altitude as they left the city limits of Berlin. As they crossed the border out of the capital, a young scientist named Werhner Von Braun was spotted with a large radio handset, and as he laughed a malevolent Nazi laugh, he pressed a cartoonishly large red button. Suddenly the Black Devil’s glider soared skyward, leaving Teddy to float gently to the ground. His dreams of gold were dashed.
Deeply ashamed of his defeat, and unaware of the corruption that led to it, Bonafacio fashioned himself a new sort of glider, one on which he would hang below wings, outside of the cockpit. And while the hang glider would eventually become a popular tool of recreation, for Teddy Bonafacio, it was a way to express his shame. Leaping of the top of the Stadtschloss, he glided down and allowed his body to be defiled by the roughly paved roads below, again attempting to end his life on the streets of Berlin. And again he failed. Disfigured but not dead, Teddy would live out the rest of his days in the Salzburg Asylum in Austria. He would be buried in an unmarked grave.