His performance at Portage Park raised to 28 the number of occasions on which Spitz has broken world records, and he allowed that "30 would be a nice round number" to shoot for. His heroics came at the expense of, among others, Frank Heckl, the 6'5�" Californian who won six gold medals at last year's Pan-American Games. An article recently appeared about Heckl entitled The Olympic Swimmer Who Hates to Swim, a headline that proved wrong on two counts. First, complaining that "I haven't felt right all week," Heckl failed in three of the four events won by Spitz, which meant he is not an Olympic swimmer. Nor did he sound like a man who hates to swim. After finishing behind Spitz and six others in the 100 freestyle, his last try at qualifying for Munich, Heckl, who will enroll in Southern Cal's medical school next month, strode off to console his tearful wife Betty. "I'm going to miss this sport tomorrow morning," he said.
Other casualties included Chet Jastremski, who flopped in his comeback attempt at 31 (SI, June 26), although he did better some of the clockings he achieved as the world's best breaststroker a decade ago, and 1970 Sullivan Award winner John Kinsella, who finished with nothing more than a place on the 800 freestyle relay. Kinsella, swimming before a hometown crowd, came to grief first in the 400 as did his old distance rival Mike Burton and 18-year-old Kurt Krumpholz, a UCLA water-polo star whose fortunes at Portage Park rose and fell like a Canadian mining stock. The unheralded Krumpholz broke Australian Brad Cooper's 400 record with a 4:00.11 swim in a morning heat. The record was not bettered in the finals, but Krumpholz finished sixth—too low to make the team—behind onetime record-holder Tom McBreen, young Rick DeMont and the clean-domed Genter.
It developed that DeMont, a high school senior from San Rafael, Calif., was just warming up for the 1,500. Back home in Marin County he has delved into the medieval sport of falconry, trapping falcons in the woods and training them to hunt sparrows. "It's kind of neat when one of your birds zaps something," DeMont said. He showed that his love of the chase extended to the 1,500. With a measured stroke that hinted of power in reserve, he let Burton and Kinsella play awhile out front and then, at 600 meters, did some zapping of his own. Easing ahead and gradually building his lead, he touched out in 15:52.91, more than four seconds faster than Kinsella's world record, and considerably in front of 17-year-old Doug Northway, a wispy 125-pounder from Tucson, and the 25-year-old Burton.
Burton, a gold medalist in the 400 and the 1,500 in Mexico, has swum in pain throughout his career because of a leg injury suffered in a bicycle accident at 13, but his courage was never more evident than now. All but discounted before the race—he himself admitted, "These young boys are passing me up"—he wept joyfully at having grabbed the third spot in the 1,500. The brawny Kinsella, far back in sixth, kept his tears within. "I just blew it," he said, blinking behind his wire-rimmed glasses. "I'll try my best in the relay."
Other than DeMont and John Hencken, an 18-year-old breaststroker whose 2:22.79 in the 200 meters broke veteran Brian Job's world record—Job also made the team—the brightest new faces belonged to the girls. From the women's team that amassed 11 of 14 gold medals in '68, only individual medleyist Lynn Vidali (who qualified in three events), butterflyer Ellie Daniel and freestyler Jane Barkman return. To appreciate the pace of change in women's swimming, it helps to recall the time two years ago when a photographer by chance asked Shirley Babashoff, then an awkward 13, to pose at a meet with Debbie Meyer, who had taken three freestyle golds in Mexico. Finding herself in the presence of so formidable a personage, Babashoff retreated into unpenetrable silence. "I just didn't know what to say to Debbie," she said.
At Portage Park last week it was the retired Debbie Meyer's turn to be impressed. Now 20 and bound for UCLA, she has been assisting Chavoor in Sacramento and was at poolside with stopwatch in hand and, like nearly everyone else, Shane Gould in mind. "These American girls are going to give Shane a run for her money," Debbie said. Most of the team's women freestylers qualified at just one distance, meaning that well-rested Americans will be challenging the Australian in every swim.
One who will face her in the first three freestyle events is Babashoff, a leggy steelworker's daughter whose surname and blonde, apple-pie good looks seemed very much in place in Portage Park, a neighborhood whose population is largely of recent European extraction. Babashoff's grandparents fled Czarist Russia because they were Molokans, a persecuted Protestant sect that, like Jews and Moslems, take literally the Biblical injunction against eating pork and shellfish. The family still follows the faith, and when Shirley, quickly developing into a world-class swimmer, journeyed to Europe last summer with a U.S. team, she refused to eat any of the various pork dishes put before the swimmers. "It worked out fine," she says. "They always brought me steak instead."
After her return to California, Babashoff continued to show progress in the pool. As, day after day, she propelled her 5'9�" frame through the water at the Huntington Beach Aquatic Club, her coach, Flip Darr, called out Gould's accursed name in a loud whisper. By coincidence, Babashoff uses, as does Gould, a slow, shallow two-beat kick that is common enough among distance swimmers (which both are) but is seldom seen among top sprinters (which both are, too).
Babashoffs productive week in Chicago began when she finished second in the 100 freestyle to 17-year-old Jennifer Kemp, a brunette from Cincinnati who wears hooped rings in her pierced ears except during big races. Almost as tall as Babashoff, she has become a top freestyler in a hurry, having switched from the backstroke just a year ago at the suggestion of her coach, Paul Bergen. "When you swim backstroke you can see all your friends in the stands making faces at you," she says.
Watching the bottom of the pool for a change, Kemp broke the minute mark for the 100 only last month, and her rapid improvement could scarcely have been more timely. Off to a flawless start at the Portage Park pool, and moving powerfully with a classic sprinter's six-beat kick, she outraced Babashoff and the third Olympic qualifier, Sandy Neil-son, a dimple-cheeked 16-year-old, to hit the wall in 58.63, the second fastest 100 ever behind Gould's 58.5.