In downtown Grenoble another old-timer, America's Terry McDermott, who had won the only U.S. gold medal at Innsbruck in 1964, entered the 500-meter speed-skating drama once again. "I did not skate at all in 1965 and 1966," he said. "But this year I got to sitting around looking at my leg muscles and wondering if I could make the team."
McDermott and his muscles made it handily. Last Friday he looked around the ice oval with a veteran's ennui and declared, "The competition here does not seem as good as it was in 1964." For all his deadpan cool (whenever he smiled it was a big occasion at the rink), McDermott is an acrobat at heart. That is, he is an anchor man and needs a special challenge to come on strong.
U.S. Skating Coach Ken Henry put McDermott in the last six-man grouping with that in mind. To add a touch of unexpected psych, McDermott drew the very last starting position among the skaters. His challenge was the 40.3 of West Germany's Erhard Keller. McDermott impassively warmed up, slipping on a pair of brown pigskin gloves and deliberately taking one false start to pump himself up. His home-town coach, Dick Somalski, leaned over and told him, "Terry, it looks good. Now we know what you have to do."
Actually it looked bad. The strategy had seemed sound early, when the ice was smooth and fast—but now the ice was soft and rutted. Even though the refrigeration under the rink had been cranked up to combat a warming day and the ice was being resurfaced between the groups of six, frost formed quickly on top of all the gouges and the track began to look like the Craters of the Moon National Monument.
When his turn came, McDermott lunged away, skating in his old-fashioned upright style. He whooshed across the finish line just two-tenths of a second off Keller's pace, tying Norway's Magne Thomassen for second place. The ice and an unlucky draw had probably cost him his second gold medal.
"Under those conditions, what Terry did was impossible," said Jim Hawkins, secretary of the U.S. International Skating Association. Well, if not impossible, unlikely. But McDermott remained unemotional.
"I'm thinking of retiring again," he said. "I have three children now and I just might have three more." That ought to occupy him until the 1972 Olympics, at which time, unless some bright youngster takes hold, he will get to looking at his leg muscles again.
Meanwhile one of those continued-next-year affairs occurred atop a far-off hillside at Villard-de-Lans. The lugers, those adventurers who go sledding down icy chutes feet first, managed to stir up perhaps the corniest international crisis of any Winter Games.
Here were these three East German girls, Ortrun Enderlein, Anna-Marie M�ller and Angela Kn�sel, sliding along in first, second and fourth spots, having the luge of their lives, when someone accused them of heating their sled runners. Whether they used napalm or the friction of old Karl Marx pamphlets no one was prepared to say; however, this alleged warming, which is supposed to make the sleds go faster, is illegal. Along came the judges and tossed Ortrun, Anna-Marie and Angela out of the Olympics; along came the jury, which confirmed that judgment; and along came a shouting world sports crisis, complete with political overtones, since the next girls in line were one Italian and two West Germans.
Other Olympians were careening around their venues in more predictable activities, and this was fine on the hillsides, but downtown Grenoble, beneath the bunting and "Acc�s Interdit" signs, was tiring. The spectators seemed preoccupied with other things, such as le spring, les girls and les get out of town. However, in the Stade de Glace they tarried to watch the Russian hockey team, a precision collection of lifetime roommates, who were destroying practically everything in their path, and the figure skaters, who were playing to packed houses.