Louganis is not preternaturally graceful; he comes by it honestly. His mother enrolled him in a dance class before he was three years old, and shortly afterward he was performing song-and-dance routines in talent contests with his older sister. Because he had asthma, a doctor recommended he take gymnastics classes when he was eight in order to build up his lung capacity. At nine he began diving. By the time he was 12, his muscles had developed so much faster than his bones had grown that he had to give up gymnastics or risk serious injury. Now he is channeling most of his energies into his diving, though he does occasionally step out on the disco floor for a little Latin Hustle two-step.
On Saturday in Fort Lauderdale the Americans continued their impressive showing. Although Mexico's Carlos Giron won the men's three-meter springboard, the U.S. placed five divers in the top 10. The U.S. also finished 1-2-3 in the women's platform with Deborah Wilson of Columbus, Ohio winning.
Then on Sunday Louganis hustled into first place, defeating runner-up Falk Hoffmann of East Germany in the 10-meter, 532.53 to 520.17. Louganis was at his self-effacing best after the victory. "Everybody is still a little off, including me," he said. "But that will change at the World Games this summer."
Chandler wasn't as fortunate in the women's three-meter, finishing far behind Karin Guthke of East Germany when her hand hit the end of the board on her final dive. At the time she was second, six points behind Guthke.
Chandler, who has only recently begun to shake those post-Olympic blues, admitted earlier in the week that she was "a basket case" on the eve of the Russian meet, her first test against international competition since Montreal. "I was more nervous than I had been at the Olympics," she said. That was little comfort to Cynthia Potter, who had led Jenni on points going into the final dive, but lost when Jenni uncorked a dazzling reverse 2� somersault. "She didn't look so nervous to me," said Potter.
The reason for Chandler's unease was that at the old age of 18, she felt worn out from her Olympic effort. "When you work for a year toward one thing and then it's over, it's just the pits," she says. "I was so burned out I didn't want to dive again, and I thought a lot about retiring. The longest I had gone without diving since I was nine years old was only a month, so after 10 months out of the pool my body was in shock. Now that I'm enjoying myself again, I'm trying to clean up my act."
Post-Olympic decompression is not all that uncommon, and Jenni wasn't suffering alone in 1977. "The Olympics are the highest any amateur athlete can go," agrees Louganis, "and when you get back home it's hard to adjust. When I came back from Montreal, a lot of my friends at high school wouldn't talk to me because they thought I had changed. It was very hard on me at the time."
To make matters worse, Louganis got mononucleosis, bruised both his heels and injured his back so severely that he had to take muscle-relaxing drugs. "Those muscle relaxers depressed him," says Sammy Lee. "He was talking about retiring and all kinds of crazy stuff. But he's all right now."
So are Vosler, Chandler, Wilson, Boggs and several other American divers, who will endure two more years of obscurity until Moscow and their two weeks before the TV cameras.