Just as his brother Steve had been second to Gary Hall when Hall was setting records in the individual medley events a few years back, Bruce had had to settle for silver medals to Shaw's golds in the 200 and 400 at Cali. But "Bruce is too determined to play bridesmaid for long," says Jochums. "He is intense, more intense than Shaw. He lives and dies swimming. Tim does his work and forgets about it. Bruce goes home and worries about his splits. He is the most talented swimmer I have ever coached. He is blessed with blazing speed, Tim is not. Tim has to work at it harder."
Blazing speed and worrying about his splits were enough to make Furniss the meet's high-point winner in the men's competition, and his team, the Long Beach Swim Club, was the men's team champion. Shirley Babashoff was the women's high-point winner, and her team, the Mission Viejo Nadadores, also finished first. Altogether, the championships turned out to be a meet of the highest caliber. Indicative of the depth of world-class male freestylers in the U.S. was the fact that all eight qualifiers for the 400-meter finals swam the distance in less than four minutes in the heats. The record total was overwhelming: five world and two American marks in the men's events, six American records in the women's. All the winning times in the individual women's races were below those of the 1972 Olympic gold medal winners, and in the individual men's events, only the 100 breaststroke, the 100 backstroke and Mark Spitz' two butterfly finals were swum faster in Munich.
Greg Jagenburg, who won the 100-meter butterfly at Cali, observed, "This meet is far more important than the world championships." Jagenburg had tapered down for an attack on Spitz' 200 fly world record, and when he missed it by .03 of a second he turned to his coach, Frank Keefe, and said, "I'm sorry. How could I have been so slow?" His time of 2:00.73 was the second fastest ever swum. Spitz, who was at poolside, remarked, "I have not been personally around when my freestyle records were broken. Maybe I should show up more often."
John Naber, who beat East German world-record holder Roland Matthes in both backstroke events last year, had not even tried out for Cali. He had rested in July, learning to play the guitar and giving a sermon at his church. "I was looking forward to a good Olympic season," he said, "and I needed a psychological break." But he prepared for this AAU meet and won both backstrokes, lowering his American record each time.
On Saturday, the last day of the meet, the question was: Who is the world's fastest human afloat? There were three candidates: Jim Montgomery, who had won five gold medals at the 1973 World Games and had broken Spitz' 100-meter freestyle record last June in the World Game trials with a clocking of 51.12; Andy Coan, the 17-year-old high school sensation from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who had won the sprint in Cali and broken Montgomery's record by .01 in his hometown pool at the Hall of Fame on Aug. 3; and Jonty Skinner from South Africa, who entered the University of Alabama last year and won the 1975 NCAA championship with a 43.92 for 100 yards. Skinner and Coan are 6'4", Montgomery 6'5"—long and lean, all three.
Coan's brief reign as world-record holder ended even before he got to swim his preliminary heat. In the previous heat, Montgomery went all out and clocked 50.59, becoming the first man to break 51 seconds. In the finals, Coan led for the first half of the race, but the second half belonged to Skinner and Montgomery, the latter winning by an inch. Montgomery's time was 51.04. In a single day, Coan's record had been shattered three times.
"The world's fastest human afloat, yes, I was that," Coan had said early in the week. "On a day in Cali. On another day in Fort Lauderdale. But this is going to be yet another day."
Meanwhile, Bruce Furniss continued to collect points for the team title, even grabbing a fourth in the 100 free behind Coan. In his fourth individual event, the 200 individual medley, his finish was a stunner: not only did he win, he set another world record of 2:06.08, breaking by almost .3 of a second the mark held by brother Steve and David Wilkie of Scotland.
The effervescent Bruce Furniss seemed more sobered than elated by his achievments. "Sometimes I'm shocked at the things I do," he murmured. "How did I do it? I had no business winning the IM. I thought I was second. I can't read the scoreboard without my glasses." Then he added, "I was so upset after Cali. But you've got to have the valleys to make the peaks."