Training is nearly impossible on the luxury steamer Manhattan, which brings the American Olympic team to Germany. Louie is forced to train on the confined upper deck, but is constantly knocked off balance by the ship’s sway. The ship serves delicious food, and by the time Louie arrives in Germany, he has gained twelve pounds in only nine days.
The Olympic Village is magnificent and everything is perfectly controlled by the Germans. Louie knows he has no chance at a medal because Finland has been so dominant in the past. During his qualifying heat, he barely squeaks by into the finals with a fifth-place finish, feeling sluggish and bloated. Before the final, he opens an envelope from Pete, with contains a joker playing card and an ace. Pete’s letter asks him which one he will be.
Remembering this during the race, as Louie nears the finish, he decides to give an all-out kick. Starting from fourth-to-last, Louie pushes up, passing runner after runner until he moves all the way up to eighth place and finishes with the fastest American time of the year. This miraculous finish catches the eye of Hitler, who invites Louie over to his box for a handshake.
Happy with his finish, Louie hits the town with a fellow Olympian. When he spots a Nazi flag, he thinks it will be a good souvenir, as it did not hold the heavy meaning for Louie or other Americans that it would soon enough. He grabs it when two guards turn their back. He is caught but manages to finagle his way out of trouble, and the guards not only let him go, but give him the flag to keep. The press embellishes the story greatly, claiming Louie heroically escaped from gunfire and that Hitler himself gave him the flag.
As the games officially wind down, Berlin begins to look very different, as anti-Semitic signs start to appear, the Olympics village is turned into military barracks, and the first prisoners are taken into concentration camps. Louie returns to California and already has his mind on the 1500 race in the 1940 Tokyo Olympics.
On campus at the University of Southern California, Louie enjoys himself and trains hard, eyes still on the 1940 gold medal. He becomes very close with the track team, who spend much time at Louie’s parents’ house in Torrance. A somewhat mysterious Japanese man named Mr. Sasaki, or Jimmie, befriends Louie. Jimmie claims to be a student and have studied at Ivy League schools, but Louie will later learn that Jimmie’s story was an elaborate ruse. The reader is not yet told the purpose of the ruse.