STOP THE WORLD, THE U.S. IS ON

In the jet era athletes are traveling as never before. Name a place and chances are an American team is there to compete. Already enjoying great success, the U.S. should do even better as a talented group of teen-agers matures
May 01, 1966

Trend-spotters agree that sport is now likeliest to develop explosively in the direction of international competition. Partly that is due to pressures exerted by the governments of nations—emerging or emerged—that see victory in sport as an important political status symbol; partly and simply by increased prosperity, leisure and facilities for global travel. Practically any minute now American athletes of all ages and shapes may begin competing in such things as the Outer World Crater Climbing Championships on the moon, the Nassau-to-Mars Junior Rocket Races or the Dead Sea Submarine Derby.

Seriously, it is spring, and you know what that means to Americans. A steamship groans on the Hudson River and eight Manhattan families drive to Montauk Point. A jet roars overhead in Des Moines and the Kiwanis Club hires a charter for Scandinavia. A train whistle toots in Pecos and four vegetable trucks swerve toward the warm baths in Mineral Wells. Meanwhile, American athletes are way ahead of all this frenzied vacation planning, and in the month of May the jet trails will grow even more numerous.

Sport has become truly worldwide. While Americans were once content to stay home and play baseball in the spring and summer, they have felt the need in recent years to send their young men and women hopping around the planet Earth just as if they were AAU officials. In the past few weeks, for example, American swimmers have been splashing in the tanks of New Zealand, Australia and Germany, American trackmen have been gliding over the cinders of Australia, American tennis players have been leaping over the nets of Italy, and a young man named Kelly Stanley from the state of Washington—sounds normal, doesn't it, Kelly Stanley?—thought enough of his somewhat recondite abilities to journey all the way to Sydney, Australia to win the World Tree Climbing Championship.

Nor does the end of it seem to be anywhere in sight. Quicker than a stewardess can spill her coffee, the U.S. will have some high school ice hockey players in Europe, some college wrestlers in Japan, some skiers in South America and not one but four basketball teams—Kentucky, Kentucky Wesleyan, Western Kentucky and Georgetown College—dribbling in Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Morocco, Libya, Greece, Israel, Jamaica, Brazil, Argentina and west Africa.

As all of these Americans lug their Leicas from one air terminal to another, it may be time to pause and take stock of exactly where the U.S. rates in 24 world sports, a representative selection of those most common to the greatest number of nations. Surprisingly well, the answer is.

The U.S. currently enjoys top ranking in seven of these sports—golf, swimming, boxing, sailing, track and field, basketball and, thanks to Peggy Fleming (page 30), figure skating. The U.S. occupies second place in auto racing and tennis. Thus, for nine of the 24 sports the American flag is clearly distinguishable, indicating that we are at present the leading sports nation. The chart suggests that only three sports appear to be hopeless causes, cycling, soccer and Nordic skiing. But who rides bicycles except kids in southern California who don't know how to surf? And here football—our version—takes the place of soccer. The Nordic skiing could be improved.

Of all of the sports in which Americans excel, there is only one that we have dominated forever. That is swimming. Twice in the past there have been formidable challengers—the Japanese in 1932 and the Australians in 1956—but we beat them back with numbers or with an age-group program. That was the last trump card, it seems. Now all serious sporting nations have age-group programs, including—oops—the Russians, and perhaps the only way the U.S. will be able to continue its monopoly will be to produce super teen-agers on the order of Dick Grayson and Billy Batson.

Fortunately, America just happens to have a few of those super teen-agers on hand, ones capable not only of outswimming a barracuda, but who also can shoot baskets, skate, ski, sprint, sail and swing golf clubs and tennis rackets.

Some of them already have made themselves known, and the others are right on the brink. At the moment the one most likely to ring five bells on wire-service machines around the world is Jim Ryun, a tall, lithe runner from Wichita, who at 19 is a freshman at the University of Kansas. Last week Ryun knocked off a 3:55.8 mile at the Kansas Relays, and that is just 2.2 seconds from the world record and the fastest anybody has run a mile in 1966. All of his training methods this year—whether purposefully or not—have been aimed at breaking the mile record, and he seems certain to do that before the month of June is over, if not before.

As sure as Jim Ryun will become the world's leading middle-distance runner, UCLA's Lew Alcindor, another teenage college freshman, will become the greatest thing to have happened in basketball since the one-hand push.

Alcindor is 7 feet 1 inch tall, agile, tough and enthusiastic about playing defense and swallowing rebounds. Out in California, where people never run dry of superlatives, he is considered the ideal combination of no less than Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, which does not mean that he has two goatees. It means he was talented enough as a freshman to average 33.7 points and 21 rebounds per game, and to help his team upset the varsity. Because of Alcindor, UCLA is expected to win three consecutive NCAA championships, beginning in 1967.

Alcindor is so good, according to Bill Sharman, a former Boston Celtic star, that he could earn $100,000 right now in the National Basketball Association. "He's fantastic," said one opposing coach this season. "He always knows where the basket is, even when his back is to it. Why, what can you do against a guy who can stuff it from the free-throw line?"

You could switch to another sport, for one thing, and if it happened to be swimming you would dive right into Brad McKean, a sturdy 15-year-old from Pittsburgh whose times thus far indicate that he will do everything Don Schollander has done, then crawl across the Indian Ocean to celebrate it.

McKean is a lad who could have been exceptional in any sport he selected—he had a habit of pitching no-hitters as a Little League ballplayer—until swimming won his all-out attention. In 1965 he was first in 18 national age-group categories. And some of his times have been better than Olympic champion (four gold medals) Schollander's at the same age. Unlike many teen-age wonders, however, McKean has a rather mature attitude about it all.

"If you want a true comparison between Schollander and me," he says, "take my times now with his times now."

Another all-round teen-age wonder whose main pursuit is the sea around him is Robbie Doyle, a 16-year-old sailor from Salem, Mass. A basketball star, a tennis and swimming standout, Doyle is primarily a sailor who will take to water with anything that looks like it might have a sail on it. When Doyle won the North American Junior Sailing Championship last year, he became the first skipper in 25 years to capture that title two years in a row—and it seems likely that he will make it three straight this summer.

Younger than any of America's most promising teen-age athletes is a grizzled, veteran figure skater from Los Angeles, Atoy Wilson, who is all of 14 years. Wilson is unusual in another respect. He is the first Negro ever to win a U.S. skating title. This he accomplished in January, when he was crowned the novice men's champion. Wilson, who has been skating for seven years, got interested in the sport in a very simple way. He went to see an ice show, and it took.

Progress is coming faster than ever in Alpine skiing, particularly because of the emphasis placed on youth programs. In the winter just ended the U.S. had 17 different ski racers place in the first 10 of a vast assortment of events against the ruling French and Austrians. The brightest pair of skis on the slopes, however, belonged to Jere Elliott, a 19-year-old from Steamboat Springs, Colo. He is just the type of athlete ski racing needs but has not had much of—a boy good enough to have been a star quarterback. His sixth-place finish in a grueling downhill race at Sun Valley against the fastest in the world recently was about the best thing that has happened to our Alpine efforts since the late Buddy Werner came along.

For some reason other than the fact that they drink less hot buttered rum, American girls have always fared better than American men in Alpine racing. There were Gretchen Fraser, Andrea Mead Lawrence and Jean Saubert, for three shining examples, and now comes cute Penny McCoy of Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

"She's got the strength, the technique, the drive and the nerves to become one of the great skiers," says U.S. Women's Coach Chuck Ferries.

Only 16, Penny made the U.S. national team last month when she upset France's Marielle Goitschel, the foremost woman skier, to win the High Sierra Cup Slalom at Heavenly Valley. Penny is so serious about her skiing that when she dates, says her mother, "He has to be a skier and in training, too."

What Penny is to skiing, Peaches is to tennis. That's Peaches Bartkowicz. Just now turning 17, Peaches has yet to lose a match in serious competition to anyone her own age, but then she has not had a chance to meet very many contemporaries. Since she was strong enough to lift a racket, the Detroit lass has been competing against girls twice her size and twice her age.

Two years ago, at 15, Peaches became the youngest girl ever to win the Junior Wimbledon title, and since then she has ranked No. 1 with the Western Tennis Association among girls in her age group, and No. 20 nationally among all lady competitors. At last she is beginning to grow in size as well as stature. Once scrawny, she has developed big, strong legs as well as a killer instinct.

"She's mean," says her coach, Jean Hoxie. "You hold up a racket and she'll knock it out of your hand from across the court. And if you hold it too tight, she'll break your wrist."

Peaches virtually has been raised by Miss Hoxie in a suburb of Detroit called Hamtramck. Tennis is the official city sport. Everybody plays. As soon as they can walk, kids are slamming tennis balls against apartment-house walls, most of which are occupied by Polish, Ukrainian and, recently, Negro residents. There are classes in tennis in the public schools, such as Hamtramck High, where Peaches is a junior, and Jean Hoxie's students dominate all of the local tournaments. The one thing wrong with the program is that many young athletes have suffered from a disease that can only be called over-tennis, and have lost interest. Peaches is the exception. She seems tougher—at least as tough as Jean Hoxie herself. And the end result could be a Wimbledon championship one day for the U.S. Anyhow, if Peaches doesn't do it, maybe her 11-year-old sister can. She's not bad for a beginner, and she's got the right kind of nickname. Plums, of course.

The U.S. has no particular worries in golf, barring the occasional intrusion of a South African or an Australian, but it can always use another Mickey Wright. And out in Lubbock, Texas, there may be one. That would be Kathy Hutson, who is only 16. Kathy is already shooting consistently in the 70s, has won the Women's West Texas Amateur Championship and has reached the semifinals of the National Girls' Junior. An excellent long driver, she began that tournament with an eagle and a birdie and lost out finally to Gail Sykes, who was two years older and far more experienced.

Nice, huh? Lots of athletes in the bank for the U.S. Golf, tennis, swimming, figure skating, sailing, track, basketball, crater climbing. All we have to do between their promising moments now and their full maturity in the pleasant future is keep them from tripping over the guitar strings.

PHOTOTennis' Peaches Bartkowicz is star at 17. PHOTOLew Alcindor, 19, is a basketball giant. PHOTORecord-bound swimmer Brad McKean is 15. PHOTOAt 19, Jim Ryun is year's fastest miler. PHOTOJere Elliott, 19, and Penny McCoy, 16, have already beaten some of the world's best skiers. PHOTOSailor Bob Doyle, 16, is two-time winner.

HOW THE NATIONS STACK UP

The chart below encompasses a broad selection of major international sports. Some that are only played in a few countries (baseball, cricket. American and Australian football) are excluded. No distinction is made between amateurs and professionals, nor between sexes. The only gauge is that of superiority, as evaluated by this magazine. The conclusion would seem to be that the U.S.A. is doing all right.

AUTO RACING

GREAT BRITAIN
U.S.A.
SWEDEN
ITALY
GERMANY

GOLF

U.S.A.
SOUTH AFRICA
AUSTRALIA
ENGLAND
JAPAN

SPEED SKATING

NETHERLANDS
U.S.S.R.
SWEDEN
NORTH KOREA
U.S.A.

BASKETBALL

U.S.A.
U.S.S.R.
BRAZIL
BULGARIA
SPAIN

GYMNASTICS

U.S.S.R.
JAPAN
GERMANY
CZECHOSLOVAKIA
(U.S.A. 6TH)

SWIMMING

U.S.A.
AUSTRALIA
U.S.S.R.
GERMANY
SOUTH AFRICA

BOBSLEDDING

ITALY
CANADA
GERMANY
U.S.A.
GREAT BRITAIN

ICE HOCKEY

CANADA
U.S.S.R.
CZECHOSLOVAKIA
SWEDEN
(U.S.A. 6TH)

TABLE TENNIS

CHINA
JAPAN
NORTH KOREA
SWEDEN
(U.S.A. 23RD)

BOXING

U.S.A.
ITALY
JAPAN
GREAT BRITAIN
MEXICO

ROWING

GERMANY
U.S.S.R.
U.S.A.
YUGOSLAVIA
ITALY

TENNIS

AUSTRALIA
U.S.A.
SPAIN
SOUTH AFRICA
U.S.S.R.

CANOEING

GERMANY
U.S.S.R.
CZECHOSLOVAKIA
AUSTRIA
(U.S.A. 10TH)

SAILING

U.S.A.
GREAT BRITAIN
AUSTRALIA
SWEDEN
DENMARK

TRACK & FIELD

U.S.A.
U.S.S.R.
GERMANY
POLAND
GREAT BRITAIN

CYCLING

ITALY
BELGIUM
FRANCE
SPAIN
(U.S.A. UNRANKED)

SKIING (ALPINE)

FRANCE
AUSTRIA
U.S.A.
SWITZERLAND
CANADA

VOLLEYBALL

U.S.S.R.
JAPAN
CZECHOSLOVAKIA
RUMANIA
(U.S.A. 8TH)

FENCING

HUNGARY
U.S.S.R.
FRANCE
ITALY
(U.S.A. 8TH)

SKIING (NORDIC)

NORWAY
U.S.S.R.
FINLAND
SWEDEN
(U.S.A. UNRANKED)

WEIGHTLIFTING

U.S.S.R.
POLAND
JAPAN
HUNGARY
U.S.A.

FIGURE SKATING

U.S.A.
U.S.S.R.
GERMANY
CANADA
AUSTRIA

SOCCER

BRAZIL
GREAT BRITAIN
ITALY
ARGENTINA
(U.S.A. UNRANKED)

WRESTLING

U.S.S.R.
JAPAN
BULGARIA
TURKEY
(U.S.A. 7TH)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)