That elfin appearance is pure deception. Gymnasts are really put together with the materials left over from linebackers and bronc busters and they pack a lot more combativeness per pound. For the best of them in the U.S., last week's women's championships had a dual purpose: to line up finalists for the world meet coming in October, and to select a successor to Cathy Rigby, who turned pro after achieving most of her goals, except, perhaps, growing to be five feet tall.
For three days 33 qualifiers fought it out at Southern Illinois University in the Elite Nationals—all that the name implies—attacking with such moves as Yamashitas, eagle catches and tour jet�s. When the rosin dust settled, the No. 1 American was Joan Moore Rice, a 13-year veteran of the game at 19, whose queenly bearing hides nerves of iron.