Back at the motel that night, the winner's parents broke out the champagne, offering their daughter a glass, too. Jennifer, the youngest of six children, declined. "The coach has his little drinking rule, you know," she reminded her folks, then wet off to celebrate with friends over cole slaw and root beer.
Babashoff had her best race in the 200 (2:05.21), the first of Shane's world records to fall. She led all the way, finishing well in front of two other 15-year-olds, Keena Rothhammer and Ann Marshall, and then shrugged. "It was a surprise that I broke the record, because it felt real easy," she said. Rothhammer, one of nine Munich-bound swimmers developed by George Haines, the perennially successful coach of the Santa Clara Swim Club, earlier had won the 400 with a time less than a second off Gould's 4:21.2. Keena was joined on the winner's platform by Babashoff, who took second, and Santa Clara teammate Jennifer Wylie, all freckles and frowns and, at 14, the youngest Olympic swimmer. Keena also tied for cute-name honors with Deena Deardruff, who won the 100-meter butterfly—backstroker Barby Darby, regrettably, did not make the team—even if the origins of Keena are obscure. "My mother says it's Hawaiian," she confided. "She says she heard it on the radio."
Babashoff failed to make it in the 800, finishing fifth, but there was Jo Harshbarger, a compact, 5'3" native of Bellevue, Wash., who will turn 16 in November, a week before Shane Gould does. Harshbarger works out 12 miles a day in a saltwater pool; her agonies paid off as her superb conditioning helped her through the 800 in 8:53.83, more than four seconds quicker than Gould's world record.
Having done damage to Gould from a distance in Chicago, Harshbarger and the other freestylers actually seemed eager to get a closer shot at her in Munich. "Shane's going to get beat one of these days," Jennifer Kemp predicted the morning following her triumph in the 100. "I think maybe I can do it." Nobody was more optimistic than Babashoff, who was confident she could handle her busy Olympic program. "I wouldn't want a day off, because then you run around and stuff and get tired," she said.
Despite all the rampant optimism, Mark Spitz, for one, feared a possibly less happy fate for the American women. "They may wind up doing a real hurt dance behind Shane," he said. As for himself, his experience four years ago made Spitz reluctant to issue predictions one way or another. "I'm the greatest this week," he said, delivering himself of an Ali-style pronouncement before yet another throng of newsmen. "If this meet was only called the Olympics...." His voice trailed off and a smile flickered briefly beneath his mustache. With a small shrug, Spitz added, "But it's not."