The Kid Who Asked Gabrielle Daleman on Twitter is My Fifth Grade Self’s Hero


A Virginia Beach high schooler took to Twitter this Valentines Day eve to ask Canadian Olympic figure skater Gabrielle Daleman if she would attend his prom in exchange for hitting a certain number of retweets.

Now, these stories surface with some regularity — today marks the one-year anniversary of tennis pro Genie Bouchard joining a Twitter beau on a promised date, for example.

The Open Man does not typically cover these items, since super-serious TBL JMAC voice WE DON’T TOUCH THAT CLICKBAIT GARBAGE. However, Blake Stevens’ courting of Gabrielle Daleman compelled me to share my own story.

Winter 1994 — Northern Arizona

The Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, just completed. One of the most-discussed sports topics of the era — or any era, frankly — reached its crescendo, with rivals Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding taking to the ice.

Kerrigan-Harding combined the high stakes of Olympic gold with superficial conflict: Kerrigan was the well-to-do, All-American girl, primed for this moment from a young age; Harding was the self-made fighter from the wrong side of the tracks. Add to it the very real and very serious elements of danger behind the scenes, and why, you were left with enough drama to script a movie.

As American coverage of the Lillehammer figure-skating competition focused squarely on Kerrigan and Harding, a star emerged through the drama: Oksana Baiul.

The Ukrainian stole the show on her way to the Gold, beating out Kerrigan. Harding failed to medal.

The sports-watching world was blown away; I was smitten. I was a fifth grader, just turned 11, and I started to notice girls for the first time. Oksana Baiul was one of the first. To that end, I consumed all the media I could get my hands on during the ensuing media blitz.

Among the items I procured: a magazine pullout from her performance, which I hung on my wall alongside my posters of David Robinson and Ryne Sandberg. I also vividly remember an in-depth feature on SI For Kids — at least, as in-depth as SI For Kids went — that included a mailing address for her fan club.

I wrote and rewrote drafts with a few very juvenile and naive assumptions:

1. Oksana Baiul would actually read every piece of mail, including letters in foreign languages.

2. She would read my pitch to meet for dinner and a movie in Phoenix, and be so flattered, she’d have no choice but to accept.

3. A 16-year-old Ukrainian Olympic star would be into an 11-year-old youth basketball player and Sega Genesis aficionado.

When a friend spotted me working on a draft, classmates mercilessly ridiculed me. My pullout came down shortly thereafter, and I never sent my letter. Had Twitter existed in 1994, there wouldn’t have been any thinking or rethinking; like young Mr. Stevens of Virginia Beach, I’d have shot my shot. For that, an 11-year-old Kyle salutes you.