For equal drama among the women, one might look to almost any of Shane Gould's races. Training for her diverse schedule has been tricky since a sprinter's speed is usually honed by rest while distance swimmers customarily prepare with hard work. It is partly for this reason that Shane's prospects are brightest in the middle distances, where her chief U.S. rivals are a couple of 15-year-old Californians, Shirley Babashoff, who broke Gould's 200 record at Chicago, and Keena Rothhammer. Shane appears most vulnerable in the 100 and 800, the former because there is little margin for error in so brief a race, the latter owing to the hardships of a schedule that will have her swim, counting relays and heats, as many as 13 races in nine days.
The 100 will match Gould's so-called two-beat kick, a shallow, easy leg action usually seen among distance swimmers rather than sprinters, against the booming six-beat of Jennifer Kemp, the Cincinnati schoolgirl who in the U.S. Trials came within an eyelash of the Australian's 58.5 world record. "I'll be kicking, and she'll be pulling," Kemp says. In the 800 final, her last race, Shane will face, besides such sleepers as countrywoman Karen Moras and Italy's Novella Calligaris, a couple of well-rested Americans, Jo Harshbarger and Ann Simmons, who will have waited around for her all week. Harshbarger, a 15-year-old daughter of a Bellevue, Wash. computer services executive, makes up for lack of speed with superb conditioning—she swims up to 12 miles a day—and she is programmed to go out hard, a stratagem that got her an 8:53.83 clocking in Chicago, more than four seconds faster than Gould's previous mark.
At stake in all this is Gould's 18-month unbeaten streak in the freestyle, a feat that suffers only when compared to backstroker Matthes'. He has not lost in his specialties in more than five years. The 22-year-old Matthes, a slender 6'2", has a deep, powerful kick and a personality that remains submerged even after he climbs from the pool. American swimmers refer to him as "Rolling Mattress," but they respect his ability. " Matthes is a supershy guy," says the ebullient Mitch Ivey, a sometime lifeguard and the leading U.S. backstroker. "He's so nice, it's too bad he's so fast."
Matthes will lend a Germanic flavor to the swimming, as will, in less obvious ways, those other two superswimmers, Mark Spitz and Shane Gould. Spitz' surname is German for "sharp," which describes the pain the Australians will feel should he win seven gold medals. Then, too, Shane Gould has been studying German for three years in suburban Sydney's Turramurra High School. In Munich, she will be able to use the language either to apologize to her hosts for making a shambles of the women's swimming or, alternatively, to explain what went wrong. One who is understandably eager to have Shane smiling triumphantly is her orthodontist, Patrick Kline. "It's a pity I can't advertise by putting my name on those teeth," he says. "But there are laws against that sort of thing in Australia."