Newspapers, magazines and radio and television stations were flooded with mail after the Winter Olympics, much of it bristling with concern for American competitors. "Our amateur best are sent to win, lose or draw against a world of professional athletes," one letter protested. "Our part-time skiers and skaters compete with European counterparts who were born and raised 50 feet from giant downhills and state-run ice rinks where they ski and skate 51 weeks a year, with one week off to make cheese...."
Part-time? Bill Koch, the 20-year-old cross-country skier whose accomplishments at Innsbruck were so impressive, has done almost nothing else for four years but train. "I train all the time," he says. "I don't work. My family finances me." The family of gold-medal speed skater Peter Mueller moved to suburban Milwaukee so that Mueller could be near the Olympic-sized speed-skating rink at West Allis. Mueller says it cost $5,000 each for him and his fianc�e, Leah Poulos, who won a silver medal, to train against topflight competition in Europe last fall. The mother of Dan Immerfall, a bronze-medal speed skater, says she went for $20,000 over a 10-year period to finance her son's training. Cindy Nelson, the 20-year-old downhill skier who won a bronze, does not work, does not go to school. Figure skater Dorothy Hamill, the most publicized American gold-medal winner at Innsbruck, moved with her mother from their home in Connecticut (leaving the rest of the family there) so that Dorothy could be under the direct supervision of her coach in Denver.
Despite the famous statement to the contrary by Baron de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, many people feel that winning is more important than taking part and has been for a long time. Olympic athletes have learned that winning a medal, even coming close to winning a medal, requires that training become a full-time job, or almost so, in America as in the rest of the world. For better or worse, there is little room for the dilettante athlete on the Olympic victory stand.
UP IN THE AIR
Whatever happens in baseball's tangled labor dispute, the same old clear thinking that led to it seems likely to prevail when the teams get into the season. As evidence, we offer the Minnesota Twins' schedule for the latter part of June. A 10-day home stand, during which Minnesota plays every day (or night), ends with a game against the Tigers on Sunday, the 20th, after which the Twins fly to California, where they play the Angels on Monday and Tuesday, the 21st and 22nd. Then they fly right back to Minnesota for a two-day, three-game set with the White Sox on Wednesday and Thursday. After that they get on the plane again and zip out to Oakland for three games with the A's on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Then they trudge wearily—beg pardon, fly briskly—home to play three games with the Royals on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
That wraps up June, fellas. Now in July....
NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH
It turned out not to be so, which is a shame, but for a time rumors had it that a monthly newsletter published by the Professional Golfers Association was to be called Preferred Lies.
At Florida's Derby Lane greyhound track there has been considerable confusion this season over a dog named Cilohocla. Since the dog was bred and named in Ireland, it was at first assumed that Cilohocla must surely be some lovely and secluded Irish lake, or perhaps an ancient heroine in Gaelic folklore. Then someone noticed that the truth is considerably less romantic; Cilohocla is nothing more than alcoholic spelled backward. The owners claim the dog was bred in partnership by an Irish law officer and a man he once arrested for disorderly conduct and persuaded to join AA, of which he himself was a longtime member. Now the question is how Cilohocla should be pronounced. With a hard c, as in alcoholic, and therefore Kilohocla? But the rules of English phonetics dictate that a c before an i is always pronounced as an s, which would make it Silohocla. (You never hear people calling themselves kitizens of Kinkinnati.) Whether Kilohocla or Silohocla, the dog has delighted his followers by finishing in a number of quinellas, and when he loses there is always a ready explanation. To a fan tearing up losing tickets on Cilohocla after a recent race, a companion said, "What could you expect? He's not a greyhound; he's a booze hound."
KLAMMER AND THRONGS