In a year of uncommon excellence, we were enriched by the deeds of these splendid performers, any of whom might have been Sportsman or Sportswoman of the Year in a Hershiser-less field
In the springboard preliminary in Seoul, Louganis hit his head on the board. With five stitches in his scalp and his confidence a bit shaken, he came back the next morning to win the gold. Eight days later, he had to nail his last dive to win the platform competition, and he did, becoming the first man to repeat as Olympic champion in both events.
FLORENCE GRIFFITH JOYNER
Griffith Joyner won Olympic gold in the 100 and 200 meters, with a world record in the latter, and shared in the 4 X 100 gold and the 4 X 400 silver. Her eye-popping bodysuits and vividly painted fingernails were riveting, but no more so than the smile she flashed in the last 30 meters of the Seoul 100, expressing her joy at being the world's fastest woman.
By beating Gabriela Sabatini in the U.S. Open final, Graf became only the fifth player to win the Grand Slam, joining Don Budge, Maureen Connolly, Rod Laver (twice) and Margaret Court. Ivan Lendl called her feat "unbelievable," and what made it more impressive was that Graf—who also won Olympic gold in tennis (left)—was only 19 years old.
Biondi, whose specialties were the freestyle and butterfly, won five gold medals, one silver and one bronze in Seoul—and he set or helped to set four world records. After his dazzling week at the Games, Biondi set his sights on making the U.S. water polo team for the '92 Olympics. "There I'll only have to worry about winning one medal," he said.
When she stepped to the blocks in Seoul, Evans, a 17-year-old sprite, looked a little out of place among her bigger, older opponents. But she won three Olympic gold medals (in the 400 individual medley and the 400 and 800 frees) and millions of hearts. It seemed only fitting that her high school in Placentia, Calif., is called El Dorado, or The Golden One.
Otto's six swimming gold medals were two more than any woman in any sport had ever won in an Olympics. The accomplishment was all the more notable because Otto had been advised by doctors four years ago to give up sports because of a spinal injury. Said East German coach Wolfgang Richter, "She cannot stand to lose." And Otto didn't.
In a much-anticipated duel of Carmens, Witt outskated U.S. rival Debi Thomas in Calgary to become the first woman singles skater to win back-to-back gold medals in the Olympics since Sonja Henie did it in 1932 and '36. Like Henie, Witt would like to develop a second career as a movie actress. "But the role I like best is of champion," she said.
The Lakers became the first NBA team to repeat as champions since the Celtics of 1968 and 1969, and in many ways that title-winning performance was a Magic show. He excelled in every aspect of the game, but it was his floor leadership that shone in the finals against the Pistons. Since Johnson joined the Lakers in 1979, they've won five titles.
It was right out of The Natural. Gibson hobbled to the plate, his Dodgers trailing the A's 4-3 in Game 1 of the World Series with a man on and two outs in the ninth. The count went to 3 and 2, and.... That dramatic homer wasn't all Gibson did in 1988. He lent fire to L.A. during the season, and for that, he was named the National League's MVP.
A birth defect called aniridia left Zorn, of Mission Viejo, Calif., legally blind in both eyes, but she became a competitive swimmer by counting strokes to each turn. At the Paralympics following the Seoul Games, Zorn, 24, won an astonishing 12 golds. "Everyone asked if it got boring going to the awards stand," she said. "But it never got old for me."
MARY BEA PORTER
While trying to qualify for an LPGA tournament in Phoenix, Porter saw an Amish man pull his unconscious son, Jonathan Smucker, 3, out of a swimming pool near the golf course. After climbing a seven-foot fence, Porter gave the child mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until he began breathing again. She got a qualifying exemption for "heroism."