That wasn't totally true. Among the (so far) non-Olympic events introduced in Madrid were the 50-meter freestyle and women's water polo, at which topless women fans in the stands vied for attention with a fun-loving team of Americans, who won the bronze medal behind Australia and the Netherlands. In the 50-meter free, Tom Jager of the U.S. proved that he was the fastest swimmer alive. Jager, taking just two breaths, covered the 50 meters in a time of 22.49 seconds.
The most delightful sight at the diving well was that of 15-year-old Gao Min of China launching herself into spinning, fluttering parabolas off the springboard. Time and again she punctured the water like a needle. Even though Gao had never competed in a major international meet before, she earned the highest total score in the history of women's springboard, 582.90 points.
"I think she could be even more of a factor off the platform someday," said U.S. diving coach Ron O'Brien. "I've seen her up there working on dives that other women haven't tried."
The springboard skills of Gao caught the eye of Greg Louganis. "She was incredible," said the five-time world champion. "Every single dive was straight up and down on the entry. That's hard to beat."
Louganis, whose hair is now flecked with gray and who has taken up weightlifting to fight the ravages of being 26, dived with his own special grace. He swept the springboard and platform titles in Madrid to end any worries that his skills might be slipping. Those fears had arisen earlier this year when Louganis placed fifth in a meet after hitting his feet on the platform.
Louganis thought the worlds might be his last competition. His acting and dancing career has been expanding: He plays a womanizing beach bum in the upcoming film Dirty Laundry and will start work this month on Front Runner, a movie in which the half-Samoan diver is cast as a Finnish distance runner. He turned down a role in Brighton Beach Memoirs on Broadway in order to keep up his diving training.
But in Madrid, Louganis remembered an old vow. "I've always told myself to continue diving as long as I can improve," he said, and as luck would have it, he partially fouled up two dives. First Louganis went too far over on a reverse 3½ tuck off the springboard, leaving him about five points shy of his alltime scoring record of 755.49 and well short of his longtime goal of 800 points. When he also came up short on an inward 3½ tuck off the tower, he decided he could still improve. And so he will dive at least through the '88 Olympics, where he'll almost surely have another chance to watch and marvel at Gao.
The worlds ended Saturday night with a brief U.S. rally. Meagher won a gold—to go with three silvers and two bronzes—in the 200 fly, and Biondi and Morales swam extraordinary closing legs to bring home a win in the men's 400 medley relay. But afterward, Quick made it clear that a full re-evaluation of the U.S. swimming program would begin shortly.
As soon as the relay had ended, Gross and his teammates wheeled a shopping cart full of beer onto the pool deck. They wrapped themselves in togas fashioned from hotel sheets and began handing out cans of lager to every swimmer they could find. "You know the movie Animal House?" asked Gross with an infectious grin. After two long weeks in Spain, that was all the invitation the American swimmers needed.