Chapter 8 of A Separate Peace marks Finny's return to school after the fall. His leg is still encased in the cumbersome case which greatly affects the formerly completely graceful Finny's movements, but not his attitude - most of the time. Finny is determined to carry on as if nothing has changed most of the time, but there are moments - usually when he is alone with Gene - when it becomes obvious that Finny is painfully aware of his loss of athletic power.
Finny can only let down his guard about his changed condition to Gene.
I didn't know why he had chosen me, why it was only to me that he could show the most humbling sides of his handicap. I didn't care.
Ultimately, Gene becomes the substitute Olympian-in-training that Finny had dreamed of becoming.
Did I ever tell you," he began in a husky tone, "that I used to be aiming for the Olympics?...Well I was. And now I'm not sure, not a hundred per cent sure I'll be completely, you know, in shape by 1944. So I'm going to coach you for them instead.
Gene comes to realize that Finny is vicariously achieving his Olympic dreams by supervising Gene's training. As Gene pushes himself to athletic extremes he had never before approached, Finny was able to reclaim a feeling of control over the part of his life that had been most important to him before the accident - his athletic accomplishments.