The schedule ahead is sketchy. She is missing one pre-Olympic competition after another. The Pan Ams are gone. The nationals start Aug. 9, the World Cup a month later. The absolute cutoff date is June 19, 1996, the day of the U.S. Olympic Trials, but realistically she would have to practice for at least a month before that. A ninth dive has been added to the women's competition for these Olympics, and she would need time to learn it.
Clark tries intermittently to dive, waiting a week, two weeks, then one or two more between each attempt. She has failed them all. O'Brien has talked to various coaches and learned about three lower-level divers who were troubled by the same phenomenon. None of those divers was able to return to the sport. The most notable athlete to be affected by vertigo was baseball player Nick Esasky, in 1990. He also never returned to previous form. "Everyone mentions Nick to me," Clark says. "I would like to talk with him."
She also hears a lot about the Alfred Hitchcock movie Vertigo but has never seen it. She has to explain to people that her illness is not a fear of heights but dizziness. She finds that most people don't know how to approach her. Should they be sad? Should they laugh a little? What? She doesn't know. She has been both sad and upbeat during these six months.
"I'm a realist," Clark says about her future. "I have some perspective. There are a lot of people looking for solutions to problems a lot worse than mine. I'm fine. I'm not walking off-balance. I'm healthy. I see this as a test: Attention—this is only a test. I don't know what it means, but I'm going to find out."
What else can she do? It is worth it to find out if it was worth it. She knows that already.