Cathy used to be a specialist on the balance beam. Now she is just as proficient on the uneven bars. In the floor exercises and side-horse vaulting, where taller women have an advantage, she is working on new, difficult moves to compensate for her lack of height.
"I think that Beer Barrel Polka music she has chosen for her floor ex is dreadful," one coach said recently. "It will be a flop in Europe. It's just too cute." Rigby points out that Vera Caslavska of Czechoslovakia, who won four gold I medals in 1968, did her floor exercises to the Mexican Hat Dance. "The Mexicans loved it," she says, "so I thought the Germans would like a polka."
In Munich, Rigby's competition will be East Germany's Karin Janz and Erika Zuchold and Russia's Ludmila Turishcheva and Tamara Lazakovitch.
In the 1970 World Games at Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, Rigby won the first medal ever by an American woman, a silver on the beam. She beat Janz in that event and also Turishcheva who became all-around world champion. Cathy has won in Tokyo, Johannesburg and London. Last spring she competed against Russian and Czechoslovakian teams in Riga and won the beam over Lazakovitch. She also placed third in both the bars and the all-around.
Recently, Linda Metheny was quoted as saying, "I beat Cathy every time we competed before the 1968 Olympics, and two out of three since then. Her coach wouldn't let her compete against me, except when he thought I was ill or injured."
Last April, at the conclusion of the AAU championships in Billings, Mont., a group of high school girls presented Rigby with a ceramic poodle and a greeting card which read: "Cathy, best of luck in Munich! We can't believe you really came to Billings because nothing this great has ever happened." She had not even won. Metheny had beaten her for the all-around title by two-tenths of a point.
A week later Cathy appeared on the cover of LIFE. Since 1968 she has been on just about every TV show from What's My Line to Johnny Carson to Dick Cavett. European newspapers have displayed her on their front pages and called her "one in a million."
In Tuscola, Ill., Linda Metheny's hometown, people wonder why she has never been paid that kind of attention. After all, Linda tied for fourth on the beam in Mexico City and has won the AAU championships five times.
" Cathy Rigby has her own publicity agent and a personal public relations committee," explained the local News-Gazette's sports editor recently. He was wrong on both counts.
Linda and Cathy have not often met in AAU championships because Marquette has been fighting the AAU for many years and frequently boycotts its meets. In 1962 he and some other coaches formed the U.S. Gymnastics Federation. It is now the governing body of gymnastics, and the USGF championships, not the AAUs, are the true nationals. One week after Billings, Cathy won the USGF all-around title in Statesboro, Ga. Linda did not compete.