Since the two of them always have so much to smile about, what with all those trips to the victory stand, it is small wonder that Shane Gould and Mark Spitz have been so preoccupied with the subject of teeth. Gould, the 15-year-old Australian, wanted her braces off before the Olympics, and her orthodontist obligingly removed them a few weeks ago. As for Spitz, the 22-year-old American, the teeth that interest him are not necessarily his own. He has long aspired to be a dentist, and his admission to Indiana University's dental school came through in February. Now he and Shane Gould are favored to win enough Olympic gold to keep the future Mark Spitz, D.D.S. supplied with fillings indefinitely.
Past performances make Gould and Spitz, along with East Germany's Roland Matthes, the ones to watch in Munich's 9,000-seat Schwimmhalle. If only because this is her first Olympics, Gould will command the most immediate attention. Spitz, in line for an unprecedented seven gold medals, has presumably benefited from his experience in '68 when he swam a program almost as busy but fell considerably short of his prediction of six golds. Matthes dominates his events as have few swimmers ever, and he is a virtual cinch to repeat his feat in Mexico City of winning both the 100 and 200 backstrokes.
The East German is the best of those swimmers from other countries who will try to keep the competition from degenerating into a U.S.-Australia dual meet. The Netherlands, dormant in swimming since the glory years of Ada Kok, suddenly has a poolful of talented women, including the first black world-class swimmer, 17-year-old Enith Brigitha, who moved to Amsterdam from the Dutch Antilles two years ago. The Russians, led by sturdy Galina Stepanova, mother of a 2-year-old daughter, will be strong again in the breaststroke. Stepanova, a naval officer's daughter who won the Soviet Union's only swimming gold medal ever in Tokyo in 1964, could, at 23, do it again. Another ascendant country is Japan, which last month celebrated its first world swimming record in nine years when chunky 18-year-old Mayumi Aoki lowered the mark in the women's 100-meter butterfly.
While others concentrate on two or three events at most, Shane Gould will be anchoring both of Australia's women's teams and entering all four individual freestyle events. The pressures Shane faces began building last January when she became the first woman in four decades to hold every world freestyle record (SI, March 13). Australia's Olympic team was chosen a month later, and Gould more or less dropped out of sight. Meanwhile, a gang of American schoolgirls mounted a challenge that culminated at the U.S. Trials two weeks ago in Chicago, where they took away two of her world records.
With battle lines clearly drawn, doting Australians will arise at three a.m. to listen to live broadcasts of what they hope will be so many installments of The Shane Gould Show. Their expectations have been fanned by Don Talbot, Australia's Olympic coach, who concedes that the U.S. may enjoy its usual preponderance of medals, but warns they will not necessarily glitter of gold. He says there is "better than a 50-50 chance" not only that Gould will win all her races but that Australians will sweep the four men's freestyle events, too.
The men Talbot is counting on are bank clerk Mike Wenden, out to repeat his 100- and 200-meter wins in Mexico, and 18-year-old distance stars Graham Windeatt and Brad Cooper. After the Olympics, Windeatt will enroll on a swimming scholarship at Tennessee, while Cooper hopes to reach a decision in Munich on which U.S. university he will attend. Cooper's deliberations assure that he will not pine away in the Olympic Village without the company of visiting U.S. college coaches.
While Australia aims for its best showing since winning eight of 13 events in Melbourne in 1956, the U.S. will counter with some formidable talent of its own. The steadiest and most unsung American is Gary Hall, a doctor's son who has a 3.7 grade point at Indiana, and in the past has needed all that gray matter just to decide which events to swim. Equally proficient in freestyle, backstroke and butterfly, Hall should win the 400 individual medley and probably will outrace Sweden's Gunnar Larsson in the 200 medley as well.
Even if he does take both of these events, and then goes out and wins the shotput and heavyweight boxing championship, too, Hall would still be obscured, as usual, by Spitz, his Indiana teammate. With four individual world records and two more as a member of relay teams, Spitz is strongest in the 100 butterfly and also ranks as a favorite in a 200 butterfly field that includes Hall. But it is in the freestyle sprints against old nemesis Wenden that Spitz can most fully vindicate himself for the debacle of '68. "Mark got psyched out by the big studs in Mexico City, but it won't happen this time," says Sherm Chavoor, his coach at Sacramento's Arden Hills Swim Club. "He's stronger, more mature and a better swimmer. Now he's the big stud."
The Spitz-Wenden duels will not be lacking in drama, but the men's 400 freestyle shapes up as even more of a heart stopper, a kind of microcosm of the meet. The 400 has American depth, consisting in this case of bespectacled Southern Cal star Tom McBreen; his clean-skulled crosstown rival from UCLA, Steve Genter; and, finally, Rick DeMont, a precocious 16-year-old who will also be the favorite in the 1,500. The event will attract, too, those Aussie upstarts, Cooper and Windeatt. For leavening, the field will be rounded out by the likes of West Germany's Hans Fassnacht and, possibly, his former Long Beach Swim Club teammate, Gunnar Larsson.
A victory by native son Fassnacht, who also swims the 200 butterfly and 1,500 freestyle, would bring on the frenzy of Oktoberfest a month early. Ironically, while Fassnacht, McBreen, Cooper and Larsson have each held the world record at one time or other, it is presently in possession of Californian Kurt Krumpholz, who failed to make the U.S. team. Krumpholz' 4:00.11 is in jeopardy, and somebody might make like Roger Bannister. McBreen, who will turn 20 the day before, is not alone when he says, "I've been shooting to break four minutes for two years now."
For equal drama among the women, one might look to almost any of Shane Gould's races. Training for her diverse schedule has been tricky since a sprinter's speed is usually honed by rest while distance swimmers customarily prepare with hard work. It is partly for this reason that Shane's prospects are brightest in the middle distances, where her chief U.S. rivals are a couple of 15-year-old Californians, Shirley Babashoff, who broke Gould's 200 record at Chicago, and Keena Rothhammer. Shane appears most vulnerable in the 100 and 800, the former because there is little margin for error in so brief a race, the latter owing to the hardships of a schedule that will have her swim, counting relays and heats, as many as 13 races in nine days.
The 100 will match Gould's so-called two-beat kick, a shallow, easy leg action usually seen among distance swimmers rather than sprinters, against the booming six-beat of Jennifer Kemp, the Cincinnati schoolgirl who in the U.S. Trials came within an eyelash of the Australian's 58.5 world record. "I'll be kicking, and she'll be pulling," Kemp says. In the 800 final, her last race, Shane will face, besides such sleepers as countrywoman Karen Moras and Italy's Novella Calligaris, a couple of well-rested Americans, Jo Harshbarger and Ann Simmons, who will have waited around for her all week. Harshbarger, a 15-year-old daughter of a Bellevue, Wash. computer services executive, makes up for lack of speed with superb conditioning—she swims up to 12 miles a day—and she is programmed to go out hard, a stratagem that got her an 8:53.83 clocking in Chicago, more than four seconds faster than Gould's previous mark.
At stake in all this is Gould's 18-month unbeaten streak in the freestyle, a feat that suffers only when compared to backstroker Matthes'. He has not lost in his specialties in more than five years. The 22-year-old Matthes, a slender 6'2", has a deep, powerful kick and a personality that remains submerged even after he climbs from the pool. American swimmers refer to him as "Rolling Mattress," but they respect his ability. "Matthes is a supershy guy," says the ebullient Mitch Ivey, a sometime lifeguard and the leading U.S. backstroker. "He's so nice, it's too bad he's so fast."
Matthes will lend a Germanic flavor to the swimming, as will, in less obvious ways, those other two superswimmers, Mark Spitz and Shane Gould. Spitz' surname is German for "sharp," which describes the pain the Australians will feel should he win seven gold medals. Then, too, Shane Gould has been studying German for three years in suburban Sydney's Turramurra High School. In Munich, she will be able to use the language either to apologize to her hosts for making a shambles of the women's swimming or, alternatively, to explain what went wrong. One who is understandably eager to have Shane smiling triumphantly is her orthodontist, Patrick Kline. "It's a pity I can't advertise by putting my name on those teeth," he says. "But there are laws against that sort of thing in Australia."
Gould could soon be writ in gold.
Put Matthes on his back, you lose.
The prospect of seventh heaven awaits Spitz—here making like a butterfly—in Munich, where he can win seven golds.