Four years ago, no one knew his name. But today, Keyop Anderson is revered across the galaxy as a powerhouse in men's gymnastics. His vault and floor routines are the Earth's best hope for Olympic gold this summer at the Zarkadia Games. Jill Sandore, of the Zarkadia relay station, reports on this most unusual athlete.
Life hasn't always been easy for Keyop Anderson. Abandoned as an infant, he was adopted by former Intergalactic Security Chief Roger Anderson and spent most of his childhood isolated from a normal family life. During the great war with Spectra, his father worked long hours and was seldom home with the boy and his four foster siblings. Sadly, the senior Anderson passed away earlier this year after a brief illness.
"I still miss him," Keyop said, choking back the tears. "He never got to see me compete."
When he's upset, you can still hear traces of the stammer that made Keyop's early speech nearly unintelligible. "I was picked on ... a lot," he recalled.
Three years after the end of the Spectran war, Keyop hit rock bottom. "I was a mess ... skipping school, doing drugs," he said softly. "And then I saw Lonnie Alvarez. I was hooked."
Alvarez's performance four years ago won him the all-around gold medal for men's gymnastics at the Intergalactic Olympic Games on Riga. Keyop immediately reached out to his idol, who pointed him toward his future coach, Sila Nuchex.
"I asked him where he trained, about his competition history. He sent me news clippings," said Nuchex with a chuckle. As it turns out, the 15-year-old troubled student was actually the retired Swallow of G-Force.
"I was shocked when I saw the footage," recalled Nuchex. "His quadruple twisting layout was flawless."
There was only one hurdle to face, but it was a big one. After the war, the Intergalactic Olympic Council expressly forbade anyone with cerebonic enhancements from competing in the games.
"It just wouldn't be fair," said Irma Luchowser, senior advisor to the IOC president.
But Keyop Anderson was undaunted. He petitioned the IOC ruling body for a waiver. They granted it, on one condition: he had to have his cerebonic implant surgically removed.
"I thought he was crazy," said Tiny Anderson, one of Keyop's three foster brothers. "That surgery could have killed him."
"I supported him, but I was concerned," agreed Keyop's brother Mark, a sentiment echoed by his older sister, Princess. "We were all worried," she said.
Today, you'll find Keyop's siblings cheering for him in the stands, but back then, only one person supported the young man's quest for Olympic gold: his foster brother Jason. A former competitive race car driver whose career was cut short by injury, Jason Anderson understood his little brother's drive to compete. "I told him to go for it," he said.
Fortunately, the surgery was a complete success. Once Keyop had sent the IOC proof of his brain surgery - a copy of his clean MRI - he was eligible to complete. By the end of that first year, Keyop had placed seventh at Junior Worlds.
"It was awesome," he said, sporting a toothy grin at the memory.
These days, you'll find Keyop's brother Jason traveling with him as part of his entourage during competition. When pressed, Jason admitted that yes, he does choreograph his younger brother's floor routines. But what does a former race car driver know about flying through the air?
Take a closer look at Keyop's family and you'll understand why those pesky Internet rumors have begun to circulate. There are five orphans in the Anderson family with five physical matches to the former G-Force team - and one confirmed former member in Keyop. Is it possible that Keyop's acrobatic sequences are actually composed by the mighty Condor of G-Force?
Jason Anderson won't even entertain the question. "The real star here is Keyop and that's where your focus should be."
When asked, Mark Anderson was more circumspect. "G-Force gave a great service to our world and I respect their privacy in retirement," he said. "If the paparazzi follow me around, that's a small price to pay if it gives the real Eagle or Condor some peace and quiet."
Obviously, Keyop Anderson knows the true identities of the former G-Force team, but he isn't talking either. "I chose to come out publicly," he said. "It was the only way for me to compete at this level in gymnastics. But my former teammates want to live private lives. I respect that."
Does that mean that we won't see G-Force in the stands cheering on the former Swallow as he competes in his first Olympic games?
Keyop smiled and shook his head. "They support me privately. Besides, I've got my family. What more could I need?"
Watch Keyop Anderson and Team Earth compete for Intergalactic gold tonight on Zarkadia relay 57!