Spinning about like flashing knives against the shanty-clad hills of Venezuela, longtime platform diving rivals Greg Louganis and Bruce Kimball traded tightly wound front 3½s and spectacular reverse cut-throughs. With one round left in the men's finals at last summer's Pan Am Games, Louganis, the two-time world platform champ, was ahead by only 16.92 points. But Kimball, the five-time national champion, had beaten Louganis in five of their seven U.S. meets since 1980. For his final dive at Caracas, Louganis tried a reverse 3½ tuck, as difficult as they come. A month before, Sergei Shalibashvili of the U.S.S.R. had fractured his skull while attempting the dive and died a week later. Louganis spun through his dazzling backward somersaults and pierced the water without a splash. The judges gave him a 91.80, one of the highest scores ever for a dive. Kimball's back 2½ pike was also brilliant, but he still finished 23.46 points shy of Louganis. In the three-meter springboard competition, Louganis had a much easier time of it. In fact, he could have skipped his last dive and still won by more than nine points. As it was, he won by almost 100. "On springboard," he said, "I'm mostly competing against myself."
GETTING INTO THE SWIM
The Olympic swimming pool built for the 1984 Games was baptized in an international meet on the smoggiest day in Los Angeles in three years. Before the 800-meter freestyle event, the superb Soviet distance swimmer Vladimir Salnikov was asked if the pollution would bother him. "I've thought about smog," he said, "but I haven't seen it yet." Then Salnikov took a deep breath and broke his world record, his third new mark of the year. Did the smog affect him, he was asked afterward. "What smog?" he replied. "I would like someone to show me smog! I have not seen smog!" West Germany's Michael Gross also performed well in '83, bettering two world records held by Americans: Craig Beardsley's 200-meter butterfly standard and Rowdy Gaines's 200-meter freestyle mark. Carey, from the University of Texas, made waves in the 100 and 200 backstrokes at the U.S. Long Course championships, breaking the records Naber had set at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. At the end of the summer, Carey, Steve Lundquist, Gaines and Matt Gribble—all world-record holders in their specialties at 100 meters—established a 400-meter medley-relay world record.
American women were dunked in the world rankings by an East German team that recorded the fastest times in nine of the 12 individual Olympic events. One of the three top-ranked Americans was 26-year-old Laurie Lehner, who clocked a 59.54 in the 100 butterfly. Julie Ridge, a 26-year-old unemployed actress, conquered Manhattan the hard way by becoming the first person to swim around the island twice. Her last previous public appearance had been in the nudie musical Oh! Calcutta! But this was no skinny dip; she swam the 56 miles in 21½ hours.
February 8, 1984
UCLA's Tom Jager had a pool party at this Dallas invitational with four firsts.
Before leaping into the new Olympic pool in L.A., East Germany's Petra Schneider (above) complained about the lack of an overflow gutter and extra lanes but won the 400 IM anyway. Sue Walsh (below) won the 100- and 200-meter backstrokes at the U.S. Long Course meet.
Tracy Caulkins had to swallow slower times.
Louganis doubled his pleasure in Caracas, winning gold in the platform and springboard.
Rick Carey washed John Naber's marks off the books.
Jeff Kostoff broke the U.S. 800 mark.
Ridge circled Manhattan twice to be Queen of the Great Wet Way.