"I feel that I smile differently now," says Brisco-Hooks, "but I didn't think it was noticeable. The rest of me hasn't changed. I'm still Valerie." Perhaps she's just more finely tuned. It's obvious that she's grooming herself to attract more commercial endorsements.
Comparison with the controversial commercialization of Carl Lewis is a sensitive topic, though Kersee is candid about his plans for Valerie. "My goal over the next four years is to develop her not only athletically but also socially and commercially," he says. "I want her to be prepared to market herself, if that's what she wants."
To that end, for the first time since the Olympics, Brisco-Hooks returned to the Los Angeles Coliseum last month to narrate and appear in a public service anti-drug abuse film to be shown at public schools. "Sometimes the pressure can be less friendly," she said, delivering her message to the camera. "This is what we call 'I-dare-you' pressure."
With only a quick rehearsal, Brisco-Hooks breezed through the first take, but it required dozens more to get everything perfect for a print. The film crew worked comfortably in shirtsleeves, but Brisco-Hooks's role required her to wear her Olympic warmups in the 84° heat. When the director complained about how long the filming was taking, she said, "Hey, I'm doing the best work of my life here."
During a break Brisco-Hooks was asked about Jarmila Kratochvilova of Czechoslovakia, the women's world-record holder at 400 and 800 meters who had missed the Olympics because of the Soviet-bloc boycott, as had 200 world-record holder Marita Koch of East Germany. Kratochvilova had beaten Brisco-Hooks in all four of their post-Olympic trials in Europe, and would be making her U.S. outdoor debut with appearances at the Pepsi and two Grand Prix meets.
"I probably won't be running against Jarmila unless she's running the 200," said Brisco-Hooks. That was the case at the Pepsi meet. The Czech won both the 400 and the 800, and Brisco-Hooks won the 200. Nevertheless, she believes the 400 to be her best race.
"I'll be going for the 200 record first," Brisco-Hooks said, "and all my concentration and effort will be on that race until I do break it."
Koch's world record is 21.71. Brisco-Hooks's winning time at the Olympics was 21.81, the fifth best of all time. Her 48.83 in the Olympic 400 was the 10th best ever; Kratochvilova's record is 47.99. Kersee foresees Brisco-Hooks setting new records with times of 21.61 in the 200, 47.80 in the 400 and, yes, 10.70 in the 100. Evelyn Ashford, who is not competing this year because she is expecting a baby, holds the world 100 record of 10.76.
"Valerie ran against everybody last year, win, lose or draw," says Kersee. "This year she's going to pick and choose her races and make people run against her. I think some people who might have been a little skeptical of what she did in the Olympics may be ignorant of the fact that in winning her individual gold medals, she broke the Olympic records held by the people they say she would have lost to."
Brisco-Hooks's filming at the Coliseum wound up becoming a 10-hour day. "And I was on time, too, Bobby," Brisco-Hooks told Kersee when she called to tell him how it had gone. Kersee laughed, for Brisco-Hooks is notoriously tardy. "There's standard time," he says, "and then there's Valerie time."