Twigg accepted the silver medal knowing there would be other chances for her, and indeed the years following the Olympics saw a succession of record-setting track races and road victories. She won world pursuit titles in 1984, '85 and '87. She raced more than 60 times a year.
During this time, the stresses on Twigg grew. In late 1985 she married Mark Whitehead, a man as outspoken as she was shy. Her stubbornness was a factor in her decision to tie the knot. "I remember telling my friends, 'Whaddya mean, I can't marry him?' " she says. In 1986, Twigg's mother died. A year later Twigg and Whitehead were divorced. "I want this to be diplomatic," she says. "We were young. Call it a difference of core values."
You look up, thinking to press for some illustrative detail. Twigg's face stops you cold. Hers is the Olympian's plight of having equally high expectations in love and sport. She is galled not to have done better, not to have willed success in the chancy realm of human intimacy.
She soon found cycling chancy enough. In 1987, while she was training with a pack of riders in Corpus Christi, Texas, her rear wheel detached and she went over the handlebars, suffering a concussion, broken thumb and cuts on her head that required 13 stitches. The next year flu, colds and a fear of riding in the peloton—a fear she had not shaken alter the training accident—reduced her to a noncontender in the three Olympic trials road races. "I had never previously gotten sick before an important race," she says. "I wouldn't let myself. So, since I was sick all the time, my body was telling me I didn't want to be riding." So she retired. And at age 26, freed of the energy drain of her cycling training, she grew an inch, to 5'7½". Talk about delayed adolescence.
She hardly went berserk. She enrolled at Coleman College in San Diego, took an associate degree in computer science to go with her bachelor's in biology from Washington, and worked from 1989 to '91 as a programmer for Kelco, a seaweed-products company in San Diego. The job was not a perfect fit. A congenital improver, Twigg no longer had anything to improve. When she refined a company computer-maintenance program, she was called on the carpet.
All it took to lure her back to cycling was hearing in 1991 that the women's 3,000-meter pursuit had been added to the '92 Games. Nine months of training brought her the bronze medal. In '93 she won her fifth world pursuit title, in a record time of 3:37.347, and she topped that with her gritty display in Bogota last fall.
The three-bedroom brick house in Colorado Springs that Twigg bought last year, and which she has redecorated, is proof that her perfectionism applies to more than cycling. The bathroom walls are covered with densely patterned wallpaper that she cut, matched and fit tediously, masterfully. "I didn't sleep one hour until it was done," she says. "I was afraid to."
The white carpet's edges have been sculptured to leave bare borders of hardwood floor. The effect is of an icy pond breaking up in spring. She hates to spare the time from training for such projects. "But I'm driven to do a good job," she says. "I'm always torn."
Because of her scientific background, it seems natural to ask how she has been helped by the physical testing that is so prevalent in sports medicine. She twists in her seat. Her 125 pounds are concentrated in her bones and bolts and magnificent engine of quads and hamstrings, making the rest of her seem fragile, lending the rest of her an air of gentleness. But not now.
"Testing, smesting!" she snorts. "How can you know all the things to test?" Twigg only grudgingly takes part in the standardized fitness tests that most other U.S. Olympic cyclists go through. Rarely does she train with a heart monitor. "I know myself," she says.