Again, he walks to
the rear of the platform.
going to feel foolish for making a big thing out of this when you find how easy
it is," she says.
He dries his hands
and steps out to the edge once more, pink and wide-eyed. Thirty seconds pass.
King lets three or four divers go off lower boards, then calls Bourland back
out to the brink: "Look, the thing you want more than anything else right
now is to have it over with and be out on the deck. That will take two or three
seconds. Don't think, just go."
Still he stands,
flicking his wrists, impatient, embarrassed with this scene. Finally King's
urgings cease. "O.K.," she says. "Come down. Just walk down and go
home if you can't do this damn dive."
"No. No. I'll
do it," he says, shooting her a quick glance. He steadies himself, opens
his mouth and leaps. Around the hall breath is expelled as he slices into the
water, and he comes up to applause.
King has never had
a diver back down. "He must have hated me while he stood there," she
says, "but when I say go home, that's the ultimate. They have to call my
bluff. Kimball at Michigan used that whole list of appeals, and more, on
me." Evidently there was a special bond between them. Now the successful
coach, King's musings continue to be those of the competitor. "Even when a
coach is using every known psychological manipulation to get you to squeeze the
best out of yourself, even if he's saying you can't do it, and you know he's
just telling you that to get you to do it, still you respond. You think, 'I'll
show the s.o.b.,' and all the while you love him because somehow you know he's
totally on your side. I think that's one fantastic thing about
King's office is
not in the athletic department but in physical education. Her desk is gray. The
walls are gray. The curtains are gray. Unless she is near the pool, her eyes
are gray. "Last year I was assistant business manager for the athletic
department," she says. "I did all of the scheduling and was advance
person for the football team [one of her duties: stocking the hotel rooms of
VIP brass with their favorite labels]. This year I was transferred to teaching
phys ed because it seems likely that women will be admitted to the academy some
day. I'm teaching full time to get ready, to be less of a token."
King lives 20
miles from work, up Bear Creek Canyon, a tree-clogged defile on the way to Pike
National Forest. Her house is comfortable, with a thick wool carpet, a
cast-iron fireplace burning huge aspen logs. A clutter of animal hides from
Colombia and great vessels of dried cattails provide an aura that contrasts
sharply with the glistening, compulsively ordered environment of the academy.
Upstairs, a 32-foot-long bedroom opens onto a deck with a view of Colorado
Springs and King's half-completed rock garden. "I'll finish it, I swear I
will," she says, but there is hopelessness in her voice. "And if there
is ever time, I'm going to do macram�." The bed is covered with a thick
down comforter brought from Europe in an Olympic team suit bag. "It looked
as if it had been inflated with a tire pump," she says. "The customs
agent opened it a little and this pink thing started squirming out. He decided
it was all right." A pane is broken in the glass back door. "I got mad
at a fly and nailed him with a towel." A pair of Siamese cats adorn the
furniture. "They gave me ringworm. I had to throw them in some sheep
King was graduated
from Michigan and joined the Air Force in 1966. Since then it's been symbiosis.
She is grateful to the service for giving her assignments which have allowed
her to advance her diving (R.O.T.C. at Michigan, Special Services in Los
Angeles and now the academy) and she doesn't begrudge any favorable publicity
she may have brought it, although she still bristles when people seem not to
understand that it wasn't all a free ride, that she has always held down
The military has
its share of traditionalists who believe wives should be home minding the kids,
and King has encountered occasional resentment. "Some wives don't want to
meet me because I may be with their husbands eight hours a day while they only
get to see them five. That's before they meet me." She casts a disgusted
look at her angular frame.' 'Afterward they see they don't have anything to
worry about." King attempts to sympathize with housebound women, "but
there is a limit to my interest in what someone's kid did cute today or what
cleanser will wipe out the sink best. I don't know, I'm all for motherhood, but
at the same time I don't believe there is any excuse anymore for a girl to be
wishy-washy and conform to the traditional expectation that she go right to
child rearing—not if she's moved to do something else." King looks forward
to women at the academy. "This is a tough place. It requires people sure of
their capabilities, because they are tested. Those women who go to college to
nail a husband will not make it here, just as those men who go just for sports
or social life won't either. The first girl who washes out of here is going to
be crucified in the press. But how many men wash out every year?"