Profiles in Courage: Martin Felderhoffer
by GUNTHER “SPREADS” TOODYANIAN-MCGILL, Alternate Reality News Service Sports Writer
The Olympics has had no shortage of heroic competitors over the years. Who could forget Jesse Owens winning four gold medals in various first person shooter events despite being diagnosed the year before with carpal tunnel syndrome? Or Mark Spitz, whose record in simulation endurance is likely to stand for decades to come?
To this elite group must now be added the name of Martin Felderhoffer, whose bronze in the 50 Hour Retro event was accomplished without the use of eyelids.
“We’re so proud of our little Martin,” Martin’s mother, Anna-Louise Hockcrop, said, holding up a picture of a three year-old wearing Spiderman pyjamas and dark glasses. “We were told by doctors not to expect too much because of his…the, uhh…you know, but – bronze medal. Wow.”
Martin, who grew up in Middleton, Pennsylvania in the shadow of Three Mile Island, started training for the Olympics when he was six years old. He would regularly get up at five in the morning to spend three hours playing Donkey Kong, Galaxian and other retro computer games before having to get ready for school.
At first, he was hampered by the dark glasses, which he constantly had to wear because, without eyelids, he had no way to irrigate his eyes, which would quickly dry out under the glare of the video monitor. “The pain can be excruciating,” explained Erin Forbes, Martin’s trainer who, when he came of age, would also become his lover.
At first, Martin tried to alternate between periods of wearing the glasses and practicing without them, but he could only look at the computer monitor for 30 seconds before the pain became too much for him and he had to bath his eyes with a cold compress. “He was a frustrated little man,” his mother said. “But, he had a dream.”
When he was 10, Martin’s parents looked into the possibility of having their son undergo eyelid transplants. This procedure – which even today is highly experimental – proved too be too costly and, with waiting periods of up to 18 years for donor eyelids, would not have prepared their son to compete while still in the prime 15 -24 age bracket.
Then, legendary Olympian Billy Sol Hurok came to town.
Hurok has been touring the country as part of the President’s Council on Gaming Fitness ever since he won four golds at the Olympics, including setting a record for high score on Ms. Pac-Man. When Martin was 12, Hurok made an appearance at the local Wal-Mart, signing Billy Sol Hurok action figure boxes and generally goofing around.
“Martin…well, he couldn’t go,” Hockcrop stated through pursed lips. “But, just knowing that Billy Sol was only a couple of miles away seemed to galvanize him, and he threw himself even more into his training.”
Martin may have been relegated to the Eyelidless Olympics but for the intervention of Randall Preston IV, an eccentric local billionaire inventor who heard of his plight. Preston IV refused to be interviewed by the Alternative Reality News Service, but his press secretary did say, “I was impressed by Martin’s pluck, by his drive. When I first met him at a fundraising function for children without eyelids, I knew that he deserved the support of an eccentric local billionaire inventor.”
Preston IV worked tirelessly over the next couple of weeks to develop an irrigation system for the eyes of people without eyelids. His device consists of a pair of glasses hooked by tubes to a vat of water. Using a computer to determine the optimal flow, pumps periodically spray the user’s eyes with a fine mist of water.
This device allowed Martin to look directly at the computer screen for much longer periods of time, which improved his game immensely. It also made another small fortune for Randall Preston IV, but nobody begrudged the eccentric local billionaire inventor his extra hundreds of millions of dollars.
By the time the 18 year-old was chosen to compete at the Olympics, Martin was practicing 16 hours a day. In a nod to his hero, Billy Sol Hurok, he chose to play Ms. Pac-Man.
Martin was the underdog, facing stiff competition from Enelgvoid Crumpkin, of the fearsome Belarus team, and Susan Smith, a plucky British lass who had already won golds at the Commonwealth Games in the aptly named Breakout Retro event. But, he held his own in the first few hours of the meet and, as other competitors fell away, those in the auditorium began to sense something miraculous was in the making.
“We had a few tense moments around the 16th hour,” Martin’s mother stated. A minor malfunction in his glasses apparatus caused water to be sprayed all over Martin’s face. “He shook it off and continued,” Hockcrop marveled, “just like a bronze medal winner is supposed to do. It was amazing.”
Crumpkin was not to be denied the gold this day, but Martin gave him a run for his money. “I’ll be back,” Martin told adoring throngs of fans. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need a shower.”
In the meantime, with Disney Studios and Dreamworks in a bidding war for the rights to his life story, Martin’s future seems assured.