The U.S. women also took a gratifying number of second and third places, an indication of team depth that bodes well for the future. A few minutes before she was to compete in the 200 breaststroke, Millikin University sophomore Marcia Morey went to the first-aid station with a stomach ache. "I think it's just because I'm scared," she confessed. It was worthy of a TV commercial: Marcia was given antacid tablets, then was mobbed by excited teammates after her strongest race ever gave her a solid second place behind East Germany's Karla Linke.
While Morey and other Americans were logging their best times, it appeared that at least some of the Germans had peaked too early. In the 10 days or so before the dual meet they had been on a world-record binge unprecedented even in record-happy swimming. When the stopwatches were finally put away, American women, competing in the national AAU championships in the same Concord pool, had wound up with just three world marks while the East German women left the European championships in Vienna with 10. Naturally the East German success rekindled charges that its women were taking male hormones and steroids, with a French doctor doing a lot to fuel the accusations.
"These women have uncommon muscle development," he told reporters in Vienna. "They have a special skin quality, a bit of hairiness unusual in girls of this age, rather curious voices and certain signs in their steps."
But the only thing that was really obvious at poolside in California was that many of the East Germans were now in the 150-pound range, having gained considerable weight in recent months.
Coach Schramme spoke candidly of the one or two massively constructed, baritone-voiced women on his team. "I admit these girls are of a certain physiological type," he said, "but this is only because we tend to look for that type to begin with. It's not the training that makes them that way. In fact, without the training they'd probably be even stouter than they are."
Schramme dismissed the talk of steroids and hormones as "ridiculous," attributing the brawn to weight training and other muscle-building exercises. Apparently accepting that explanation, several U.S. women are turning to weight training. "Our girls have always been afraid that weights would make us too muscular," said Marcia Morey, "but I'm going to start using them this fall." Already lifting weights is Babashoff, whose once skinny 5'10" frame has fleshed out to 145, a gain of some 15 pounds.
One interesting question was why the East German men have failed to make a breakthrough to match the women's. Instead it is the U.S. that keeps coming up with the bright new stars, the latest being Tim Shaw and Naber. Shaw, a slender, painfully shy schoolboy from Long Beach, set three world records at the U.S. championships—in the 200, 400 and 1,500 freestyles. In the excitement of breaking the 400 record a friend entrusted with holding his glasses dropped and broke them. "Everything's in a blur," Shaw complained, but he saw his way to winning the same three events last weekend, although not in record time.
Naber is as outgoing as Shaw is withdrawn, and why not? Aren't backstrokers accustomed to facing the crowd rather than the bottom of the pool? As a freshman last spring Naber led USC to a one-point upset of perennial NCAA champion Indiana, and he was unbeaten in the backstroke for almost a year. But that accomplishment paled next to Matthes' streak, and at Concord the American was properly cautious. "I'd be crazy to tell you I'm going to beat Roland," he said. "My chances are one in 10."
What Naber didn't know was that his East German rival had been weakened by colds and recent root-canal work. Even more important was Matthes' admission that swimming was becoming "more work and less fun." Matthes won both backstroke events at each of the last two Olympics but has been predicting for some time that he would retire before the 1976 Games.
The race against Naber in the 200 began inauspiciously. Matthes had grown accustomed to winning with such ease that he could afford the luxury of looking over his shoulder when approaching the wall instead of using overhead flags to gauge his turns the way other backstrokers do. Nearing the first turn, kicking deep and riding high in his familiar style, he looked around as usual. He and Naber were dead even at this point, but soon the American began pulling ahead. Matthes is usually casual, all but smiling in the water, but now his features were grim and taut. Naber's lead at 100 meters was half a body length and Matthes began straining. He had to sacrifice caution for speed; he relied on the flags to make his turns.