OFFICIALS WILL NEED CASSETTES of only two national anthems for the
awards ceremonies in synchronized swimming: O Canada and The
Star-Spangled Banner. The solo event will be a battle between Carolyn
Waldo of Canada and '84 Olympic champion Tracie Ruiz-Conforto of the
U.S. The swim-off for the duet gold will pit the Canadian team of
Waldo and Michelle Cameron against identical twins from the U.S.,
Sarah and Karen Josephson.
Waldo, 23, will be trying to score the same smashing double that
Ruiz- Conforto, 25, pulled off at Los Angeles, when she not only won
the solo event, sending the Canadian home with the silver, but also
teamed with Candy Costie to take the duet title. When she retired
after L.A., Waldo figured it was safe to go back in the water, and
the Canadian started winning everything in sight, including the '85,
'86 and '87 worlds. The '88 Olympic gold, apparently, was hers. But
Ruiz-Conforto unretired two years ago and fought her way back to the
top, eventually beating Waldo in June at the pre-Olympic meet in
''In solo you're all alone in this big pool, so you have to be
dynamic and dramatic,'' says Ruiz-Conforto. ''You have to be an
actress. I can see me winning now. I can picture myself getting the
gold medal.'' Waldo begs to differ, naturally. ''I plan to win,'' she
says simply.
The Josephsons are the underdogs in duet because they've lost all
four of their match-ups with Waldo and Cameron. When the twins faced
the Canadian duo at the '86 World Aquatic Championships, they lost by
2.86 points. Since then they have steadily narrowed the margin. At
the pre-Olympic meet in Seoul, Waldo and Cameron outswam the
Josephsons by the smallest of margins, 198.784 to 198.634. That sent
the three-time world champions home to revamp their freestyle
routine. Says Canadian coach Debbie Muir, ''We've changed three
quarters of our routine for Seoul.'' Counters Karen Josephson, 'We've
changed about 25 percent of ours.''
The Josephsons are both 5 ft. 4 in. and 120 pounds and have been
swimming together for 18 years. Being identical twins is a distinct
advantage in a sport that demands perfection and rewards mirror-image
synchronization. Twins also have another advantage. ''I think we can
read each other's minds sometimes,'' says Sarah.
The 5 ft. 8 in., 127-pound Cameron, 25, and the 5 ft. 6 in.,
125-pound Waldo have light-colored hair, but that's it for physical
resemblance. ''Still, we're a good match,'' says Waldo. ''We have
good communication in the pool, and similar bodies.''
As Ruiz-Conforto said, a synchro swimmer has to be an actress --
and not just in the water. During the medal ceremonies, watch for an
Academy Award- winning act from the losers in both the solo and the
duet events. It's tough keeping a smile on your face when they're
playing someone else's national anthem.