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SUGAR AND SPICE—AND IRON
Anita Verschoth
August 21, 1972
Gymnastics may be the one sport—diving might be the other—which should be performed in the nude. Gymnastics is simply and wholly grace, beauty, strength, a glorification and exaltation of the human body. Thus, Cathy Rigby, the best U.S. hope for a medal at the Olympics
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August 21, 1972

Sugar And Spice—and Iron

Gymnastics may be the one sport—diving might be the other—which should be performed in the nude. Gymnastics is simply and wholly grace, beauty, strength, a glorification and exaltation of the human body. Thus, Cathy Rigby, the best U.S. hope for a medal at the Olympics

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Cathy Rigby falls asleep on airplanes and jerks in her seat. "I dream about my routines," she says, "and I guess I jerk when I fall."

Ostensibly, Cathy has not been allowed to date until after the Olympics, but this week she disclosed her engagement to Tommy Mason, 33, the former All-Pro running back who now plays for the Washington Redskins. "I met him two years ago," Cathy says. "We hardly ever went out. We always had dinner at home with my parents. I thought Bud didn't know, and I was afraid to tell him."

"I've known about it for nearly a year," says Marquette. "The other day we had a real good daughter-daddy talk and I said, you have to bring it out into the open, but it can't interfere with your training. Since we had that talk her workouts have been out of sight."

Cathy will not see Mason again until after the Olympics. "He's in training camp," she says, "and he has a 10 o'clock curfew, too."

In June, 1971, Cathy graduated from high school where she had a B average. She briefly attended Long Beach City College. "If you go to school you have to get up so early," she says.

When she was a child, her parents wanted her to play the piano. "I was supposed to practice one hour a day," she says, "but I could never sit still for that."

Cathy Rigby trains eight hours a day, seven days a week. Because of her total commitment to gymnastics, her "great control over mind and body," as one teammate puts it, and her lack of fear—complemented by the coordination without which no one should ever try a flip-flop—she has, at age 19, become the finest female gymnast in the U.S. Four years ago, at the Mexico City Olympics, she was suspected of being merely the mascot of the American team; she is 4'11". At Munich she will be a contender in two of the four women's events and America's No. 1 hope for an individual gold medal on the beam or the bars or both. "In 1968, it was all fun and games," says Cathy, who placed 16th in the all-around. "This time it's serious business."

Cathy is the third child of Anita Rigby, who is Cathy's size, and Paul Rigby, who is 6'1". Cathy was born two months prematurely on Dec. 12, 1952. At birth she weighed four pounds. She had collapsed lungs, and during the first five years of her life she was often critically ill with bronchitis and pneumonia. "We almost lost her several times," says her mother, "but she always came back. Cathy and I are very close and a lot alike. I don't admit defeat in anything, and neither does she."

Cathy roller-skated when she was 18 months old. At five she wanted to ride a bicycle but could not stay on. "She fell off all the time," says Mrs. Rigby, "but she never gave up."

When the SCATs compete away from home, Cathy's teammates like to go to a movie on the eve of the competition. She prefers to watch television in her hotel room and eat candy. She likes Milk Duds and M & M's.

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