Still, he was obviously not himself in the 200 free, somehow staying in the thick of things until the last 50 meters, at which point his once smooth stroke became jerky and strained. Shaw was in a subdued mood afterward, absently going home with the keys to someone else's car in his pocket. The next morning, back at the pool, he said, "The tough part of all this is that it's happening in my hometown. I feel I'm disappointing so many people." His lips tightened and he vowed, "This is going to psych me up for the 400."
While Shaw was psyching up, Brian Goodell was bouncing around his motel, busily chattering with other swimmers and, one day in the dining room, profusely apologizing to the cashier for having helped himself to what he felt were too many free mints. At his home club in nearby Mission Viejo, Goodell had been honed to a racer's edge by using what Coach Mark Schubert calls the "animal lane," a section of the pool open only to those willing to work 20,000 meters—roughly 13 miles—a day.
In their 400-meter showdown, Goodell and Shaw both stayed in the pack behind the ubiquitous Naber, who once again played rabbit by bursting into an early lead. They were third and fourth at 300 meters, and then made their move together, surging along with Converse past the fading Naber and Bruce Furniss. "It hurt like hell, especially the last 50 meters," Shaw said afterward.
"It felt super all the way," smiled the new record holder Goodell.
Goodell's confidence was equaled only by that of Babashoff, his more celebrated Mission Viejo teammate. Three weeks ago, after learning that her 400 freestyle record had been broken, Babashoff had been so unfazed that she went home that evening, had dinner and went to bed, remembering only the next morning to pass the news along to her family. Last week she said, "I knew the record was going to be broken. I wasn't upset, because it really wasn't that fast anyway." Babashoff, who has a fish tank in her bedroom, seemed far more distressed by the recent demise of one of her specimens, a kissing gourami. "I'd just bought it," she said, her light-blue eyes clouding over. "Then two days later it died. That made me very sad."
In their efforts to keep up with her at the Trials, most of Babashoff's rivals fared little better than that gourami. Babashoff arrived in Long Beach having pared her weight from 160 to 150 pounds, and in the 200 free slashed to an easy victory and an American record of 2:00.69, nine-tenths of a second above the world mark of the GDR's Kornelia Ender. Wolfing down a turkey sandwich and a pint of milk as a poolside snack just 45 minutes before race time, a warm-up procedure that would cause most coaches indigestion, she won the 400 in an American-record 4:12.85, just off Krause's new mark of 4:11.69. Meanwhile, in a preliminary heat of the 800 free—the finals were scheduled for early this week—she set an American record of 8:46. Going from one distance extreme to the other in the same day with the same result, Babashoff then set her fourth American record of the meet by winning the 100 free in 56.96.
Though primarily a freestyler, Babashoff had also demonstrated her prowess—or rather the relative weakness of the rest of U.S. women's swimming—by qualifying first in the 400-meter IM, an extra event for her. Her winning time was 4:57.11, nearly nine seconds slower than the world record of East Germany's Birgit Treiber, and it was rumored that Schubert might scratch her from the event. There are fears that Babashoff might be spreading herself too thin at Montreal, a line of thinking that led somebody at a news conference to point out to her that the Olympic schedule calls for preliminaries of the 400 IM and the 800 free on the same day.
The women's team will also include 6'2" Tauna Vandeweghe, who qualified for the 100-meter backstroke behind another 16-year-old Californian, Linda Jezek. Tauna's father is former New York Knick star Ernie Vandeweghe, her mother is former Miss America Colleen Hutchins Vandeweghe. With Tauna on hand to please nostalgia addicts, long-shot fanciers meanwhile had an eye on Jill Sterkel, a 100 freestyle specialist from the same El Monte ( Calif.) Swim Club that produced Sandra Neilson, the surprise gold medalist in the 100 at Munich.
Blonde, sturdy and just three weeks past her 15th birthday, Sterkel is so new to big-time swimming that she arrived in Long Beach unclear as to what the world record was in the 100. The answer is Kornelia Ender's 55.73, and Sterkel is heading in that direction. Her best previous time in the 100 was 57.99, and after making the team with Babashoff in the 200, she was second again in the 100 with a 57.25.
With one day to go in the Trials, only the men had set world records—Goodell's in the 400 free and Naber's in the 200 back. As such things are recorded in swimming, this was not much of a haul. There was talk about the pool being "slow," a notion belied by the fact that the 8-year-old facility had previously produced 15 world records. But Olympic men's Coach Doc Counsilman noted that Americans are geared to swimming their best in the summer. There would be, Counsilman promised, a "whole lot" of world records in Montreal.