When she came back last year she treated the elbow gingerly, until Pearson goaded her into trying harder. There were words—there always have been words—but the two remain friends, probably for no other reason than that they both feel someday soon Kathy will become the best woman javelin thrower in history. She has the size and the competitive presence, something that was very evident during the Olympic javelin preliminaries last year at Munich. While others heaved and sighed and warmed down and warmed up between throws, Kathy strolled slowly over to a steeplechase hurdle, sat down on it and ate from a box of Rice Krispies.
"Some people criticize me for being so cash [for casual]," says Kathy, "but I perform best when I'm calm. I wasn't doing my jumping jacks, but three of the top contenders who were didn't make the finals." Kathy did, coming in third to Fuchs and another East German, Jacqueline Todten. Her bronze medal represented exactly half of the total of individual medals won by U.S. women in track and field (the other, a bronze by Kathy Hammond in the 300 meters).
Off the field Kathy Schmidt is as confident as she is on it. She revels in her height and dominates almost everybody around her. "She is very headstrong," says her mother. "Very determined. We fought many battles."
Last December, with her parents' blessings, Kathy moved out of the family home and took an apartment nearby with a girl friend. She is a student at Long Beach City (Junior) College, where she expects to graduate as a communications or media major and eventually become an announcer.
Meanwhile, Kathy is working this summer for Pearson, who has a successful landscaping business. She rises at five every morning to water the lawn at a private club and perform other chores, and practices every afternoon. Recently she hit 228 feet during a workout, but Pearson expects much more. "She has the potential to reach 250 feet," he says, "probably between the ages of 22 and 26, when she will be at her strongest." Which is a long vote of confidence for the feminine physique.