Besides doing handsprings in Winnipeg, fun for Jenni Chandler includes cutting up with pals like Carrie Irish. In Belgrade for last year's world championship, they bought roller skates and sneaked away to use them—the sort of stunt calculated to scare an injury-conscious coach to death. Carrie finished sixth in the meet, two places ahead of Jenni, largely on one dive—a reverse 2� tuck that earned the meet's highest single score. But Carrie can disappoint as well as dazzle. Last spring she won the three-meter at the prestigious Spring Swallow meet in Russia only to show up two weeks later at the AAU championships in Dallas and, in the competition won by Jenni, place a calamitous 27th.
Carrie can blame at least some of her inconsistency on the lack of a three-meter board in her hometown of New Canaan, Conn., but she has enrolled at Ohio State where she can work year-round. "Carrie's virtually untrained," says OSU Coach Ron O'Brien. "She's quick and dynamic, and she's going to be the best springboard diver in the world."
Other three-meter contenders have had different problems. SMU's Christine Loock, for example, could have made the Olympic team in 1972 except that she hit the board on one of her dives at the Trials. Loock, who has a 3.8 average in premed, is a contender in platform as well as springboard. Then there is her Dallas teammate Cynthia Potter, a 23-year-old Indiana graduate who has won 18 AAU titles, many coming at the expense of archrival Micki King. But the fact that a good number of Potter's triumphs were in one-meter springboard, an event virtually ignored everywhere but in the U.S., causes King to sniff, "She can have them." And while Captain King was winning at Munich, Cindy Potter was knocking herself out of contention. She hit her foot in a practice dive off the 10-meter tower, bruising it so badly that she had to be carried to and from the Schwimmhalle.
Potter, who weighs 98 pounds and is as tightly muscled as a sprinter, suffered other injuries while diving platform, including tendinitis in an elbow, a wrenched arm, pulled shoulder muscles and torn back ligaments. In action again following an eight-month layoff during which she studied ballet, Potter has dropped the platform. "I don't want to sound like a pathetic child, but enough was enough," she says. She has enough regard for the likes of Carrie Irish to beef up her list of dives and she also is influenced by Jenni Chandler. "With me people say, 'That's the way to do that dive,' " Potter says, "but with Jenni, they say, 'Isn't that pretty.' I hope ballet will help me be a more graceful diver."
The event that gave Potter such a beating, the platform, is the equivalent of diving from a four-story building. So who would want to dive off a four-story building? Janet Ely, another of those Dallas-based divers, would. She finished fourth in both three-meter and tower at Munich, but her prospects now seem brightest from the platform. Owing to the inherent risks, but also because of a shortage of indoor facilities, this event is a little less crowded with sensational youngsters at the moment. Ely proved the point by winning the event in the Dallas AAUs despite blowing two dives. "I've been diving platform five years, and I feel comfortable with it. Of course, it still scares me, too," she says.
Ely is pursued by such younger platform divers as Melissa Briley and Debbie Keplar, both of whom, like Ely, aspire to be artists. Melissa, a Houston native who has received an athletic scholarship to the University of Miami, is also a threat in springboard and unless her waist-length hair unravels and trips her—she braids it for diving—she could develop into the most versatile U.S. diver. As a child, Debbie, an Ohio State freshman, suffered a mental block worse than Jenni Chandler's and quit the sport for three years. She stuck to springboard until Ron O'Brien persuaded her to try tower last summer. Five weeks later she won the national outdoor championship at Louisville.
"I still don't know how Ron got me up there," Debbie says with a sigh. Her strength on tower is a ripping, splash-free entry, which has been attributed to her hyperextended elbows—but may also be caused by a desire to get the ordeal over with.
It is Carlos de Cubas' intention to have Jenni perform off the tower, too. First, of course, she must upgrade her springboard list. It might be questioned whether so elegant a diver has the strength or quickness for acrobatic maneuvers, but Jenni says, "My parents give me the old pep talk that you can do anything you set your mind to. I believe it. When I see these little 11-year-olds doing the hard dives, I feel I can, too."
She was less guarded during a break in de Cubas' backyard diving clinic. Some of the divers were in the Chandler house watching Let's Make a Deal on TV. Jenni and a few others were sunbathing. Coming inside, Jenni passed the table where her father was having lunch. She wore a bikini and was eating a grape Popsicle.
"You looking forward to the triple twister, Jenni?" the Marlboro Man asked, referring to one of the dives his daughter is due to learn.