Last year saw him reach the top. This year he has confirmed his extraordinary talent. Bobby is an inch over 6 feet tall and weighs 170 pounds. If a scientist could design a human being to swim the sprints superbly, he would produce a Bobby McGregor. His power is concentrated in his arms and shoulders and deep chest, where it counts, while his legs are long and thin.
"His style," says David McGregor, "is perfection. I have yet to meet anybody who can criticize Bobby's stroke." He travels with his shoulders and chest high in the water, cutting down resistance; the effect is something like that of a planing boat. Bobby's arms have a natural low recovery. He has a bent arm pull with which he extracts the last bit of propulsion from every stroke. Only his starts and turns could be improved.
The state of Bobby's health delights the physician who gives him a checkup every other week. Says Dr. Douglas McIntyre: "There is not a fitter person in Britain, as far as heart and lungs are concerned."
Bobby has done nearly all his training in the 25-yard Falkirk pool, a plain place that reverberates every sound. Training over short courses bothers him not at all. "At first you find yourself looking up halfway down a long-course pool," he says, "but you get used to it."
On a typical day Bobby awakens at 6, breakfasts on fruit juice, fresh fruit, cereal and coffee, and at 7:30 begins the melancholy task of getting wet. The morning session usually commences with a 1,000-yard warmup—500 yards using arms only, with legs tied together, 300 yards with a normal stroke, 100 yards kicking and 100 yards backstroke. The bulk of the serious work—as serious as Bobby can manage—consists of twenty 50-yard bursts. He averages about 27 seconds for each 50, takes a 20-second rest between sprints and a two-to-three-minute break after each set of four. He also does ten 50-yard butterfly dashes to build stamina and arm strength.
In the evening Bobby typically swims another 1,000 yards warming up, but only ten 50-yard segments freestyle and five butterfly. Three times a week he does some light weight lifting. "The main thing," says his father, "is to try and prevent your swimmers becoming bored." Bobby spends the fortnight before a major meet just sharpening up with a few single lengths of the Falkirk pool each day. "If you begin to go stale," says Bobby, "you either swim through it or just rest. I usually rest."
Now that Tokyo is only three months away, Bobby is resting like mad, relaxing his way to the end of a three-week vacation from training. He spends a good deal of the time fishing for salmon and trout with plugs or a spinner ("I'm a killer, I know, but you catch more that way"). He also listens to Frank Sinatra records, tends the fire his mother likes to have blazing on the McGregor hearth summer and winter, and doodles with plans for the swimming pools he will design when he receives his architect's diploma three years from now.
This is not to say that Bobby is complacent. He knows that he will have to swim the race of his life in Tokyo to defeat the combative American star Steve Clark of Yale, who may well be capable of a 53.5-second 100 meters, and if Don Schollander swims the event Bobby will face another tough American. France's Alain Gottvalles, Germany's Klein and Australia's David Dickson may give him a race, too.
But Bobby McGregor is hardly swimming scared. "If I am going to win at Tokyo," he says, "I'd like to do so by a big margin." And then get some real rest.