All of us at SI—along with countless Olympic officials and athletes who have dealt with her over the past 10 Olympics, winter and summer—are keenly aware that associate editor Anita Verschoth is nothing if not indomitable. That's an admirable quality in a journalist, but as Verschoth found out recently, it can be overdone.
Early last September, while vacationing briefly on the island of Hvar in the Adriatic Sea off Yugoslavia, Verschoth realized, albeit reluctantly, that a growing stomach pain had to be acknowledged—the local doctor she consulted identified it as acute appendicitis. Verschoth's reaction was typical. She'd just finished eight nonstop days in Sarajevo, immersed in the mechanics and minutiae of setting up SI's coverage of the 1984 Winter Games, and didn't want to cut her respite short. So, ignoring the pain, she stayed another day on Hvar and then split for the city of Split on the mainland, flew to Zagreb, took a hotel room, booked a morning flight to New York, calmly phoned us in Manhattan and asked a friend to reserve a room in New York Hospital the next night because she might need surgery upon arrival.
Word of these arrangements reached senior editor Julia Lamb, who's in charge of SI's Sarajevo coverage. Lamb immediately phoned Verschoth in Zagreb and ordered her to abandon—at once—all semblance of indomitability and check into the nearest hospital. Verschoth recalls: "I was mad at Julie and told her to just let me sleep so I could catch my plane. She wouldn't hang up. She saved my life, I think, because I've since learned that the air pressure at high altitudes probably would have caused my appendix to burst."
Verschoth spent the next 12 days in a six-patient hospital room in Zagreb; she eventually had her appendix removed in New York in December and is now fit and ready to add Sarajevo '84 to her Winter Olympics list of Innsbruck '64, Grenoble '68, Sapporo 72, Innsbruck '76 and Lake Placid '80.
February 6, 1984
Besides the arrangements she has made in Sarajevo and the on-site reporting she will do during the Olympics, Verschoth this week fulfills yet another assignment for us: Beginning on page 72 are her third Winter Games picks for medalists in all 39 events. In making her selections, she uses her own expertise, plus reports from some 20 far-flung stringers, notably Patrick Lang of France's L'Équipe; Volker Kluge, editor of the East German paper Junge Welt, and Traudl Lessing, Time Inc.'s Vienna correspondent.
How close can you expect these choices to be? Well, for Innsbruck 76, of a possible 37 gold medalists, she picked 14 correctly. That's a .378 batting average. It was even better in 1980: Of 38 gold medalists, she got 16 right—a .421 average. This year she's hoping to hit .500, which, were she a betting woman, would make her quite a winner. In horse handicapping circles, for example, a forecaster who picks one-third of the races right is considered tops.