In both Cairo and Moscow, however, Ruiz-Conforto had won the choreographed portion of the competitions. "Even though I lost at the worlds, I was proud of myself because I'd won the routine," she says. "That meant I was halfway there. People knew I was really back, and that I was going to go for the '88 Olympics."
At the Olympic trials, Ruiz-Conforto really showed she was back when she whipped her competition, mainly Babb, in both the figures and solo routine. In the latter, the judges gave her five 9.9's and two perfect 10's for technical merit. Then came the scores for artistic impression: seven 10's, the best marks any synchro swimmer had received in a major competition since 1971, when Heidi O'Rourke of the U.S. received all 10's—for both technical merit and artistic impression—at the Pan American Games in Cali, Colombia.
Two months later Ruiz-Conforto defeated Waldo at a pre-Olympic meet in Seoul. "After I pulled ahead by 1.7 points in figures, I knew I had won," she says. "I pulled off my cap and I had the hugest smile on my face. Then I went out and won the routine, too."
At 3:30 p.m. Ruiz-Conforto drags herself out of the Bellevue pool and rests for a few moments on the deck. She's exhausted but cheerful.
"My whole goal in coming back was to have this ultimate performance, this ultimate routine," she says. "And if I win the gold medal, too, well, that's my dream. I want to do something that will be remembered for a long, long time."