AT HOME, THE U.S. WAS A WORLD-BEATER
Though U.S. swimmers and divers couldn't compete in the 1980 Olympics, their year wasn't wasted. At the NCAAs in Cambridge, Mass. UCLA's Brian Goodell won the 500 and 1,650 freestyles and the 400 individual medley to become the meet's first three-time triple winner. The only others to win three events even once were Mark spitz and John Naber. At one set of Olympic Trials, the U.S. Indoor meet in Austin, Texas, Rowdy Gaines set a world record of 1:49.16 in the 200 free and Greg Louganis established himself as the diver to beat at either the three-meter board or the 10-meter platform. At the other set of Trials, the Outdoor meet in Irvine, Calif., Mary T. Meagher set a world record in the 200-butterfly (2:06.37), Craig Beardsley lowered the men's mark to 1:58.46 and Bill Barrett swam the fastest 200 IM (2:03.24) in history. Breaststroke specialist Tracy Caulkins, 17, won seven national titles; she has been the women's high-point winner at every national the last four years.
A freestyle and butterfly expert, Mike Bruner was high-point man at the indoors and Outdoors. At 23 Bruner was supposed to be, well, washed up. But before the boycott his old instructor, Bill Rose, had asked him to try for one more Olympics, and Bruner couldn't resist. His astonishing comeback climaxed at the outdoors when he won the 400 and 1,500 free-styles and placed second to the record-breaking Beardsley in the 200 fly.
Since the Outdoors began two days after the Olympic swimming competition, officials insisted on comparing the Irvine times with those at Moscow. Based on their performances, U.S. swimmers would have led the world with 10 gold, 12 silver and five bronze medals, with Meagher (golds in the 100 and 200 fly), Kim Linehan (golds in the 400 and 800 free), Gaines (gold in the 100 free, silver in the 200) and Bruner (silvers in the 400 free and 200 butterfly) earning two apiece. To be sure, comparing times at separate meets is not conclusive. The only world-class winner to swim both for a U.S. team and in the Olympics was Par Arvidsson, a Swede who led California to the NCAA title and won a butterfly gold at Moscow.
Greg Louganis earned 18 perfect scores of 10 in the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Poseidon's trident—Swedish star Arvidsson, American champions Meagher and Gaines—could have won races swimming underwater.
Freestyler Linehan prayed in vain to go to Moscow; Rowdy lived up to his name after Auburn's 4 x 100 freestyle win in the NCAAs.
Bruner was the head man in Doth the U.S. indoor and Outdoor meets.