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With nearly half the world's best swimmers, the ones from Eastern bloc nations, staying home, triple gold medal hopeful Rick Carey of Mount Kisco, N.Y. foresees what he calls an "Olympics by teletype." "They'll be sitting over there in East Germany and Russia waiting for our times to come across," says Carey, the world-record holder in the 100-and 200-meter backstroke, whose leading rivals will all be absent. "Then they'll go out and swim in their alternative Games and send us times to compare."
Count on the 21-year-old Carey to heat up the wires. He'll probably lower both of his marks in Los Angeles and help the U.S. shatter the men's 4 x 100 medley relay record it set at last summer's Pan Am games in Caracas. The absence of his challengers doesn't faze Carey a bit. "I don't think they could beat me, and I think they know that, too," he says. Then he adds confidently, "It would be more fun to beat them head-to-head."
The boycott won't unduly curtail the head-banging in the men's competition. Only Carey will be a runaway winner. "Every male world-record holder except one will be there," points out U.S. Olympic head coach Don Gambril. "You're going to see some battles." Indeed, over the six days of Olympic swimming, you'll probably see at least five current or former men's world-record holders lose.
"Blood, sweat and tears all the way down the lane," is how former world-record holder Steve Lundquist describes his breaststroke rivalry with the new record holder, John Moffet of Costa Mesa, Calif. Moffet took away Lundquist's world 100 breast mark last month at the U.S. Olympic trials in Indianapolis—but could barely hold off Lunk in the final meters. Moffet touched in 1:02.13, Lundquist in 1:02.16. They'll meet again in the 100 breast finals in L.A., where they'll be joined by Canadian brawler Victor Davis. It'll be a classic.
"John has a tendency to rush his turnover in the last 25," says Moffet's club coach, 1972 Olympic freestyler An Simmons. But Moffet's strengths are his powerful legs and natural stroke, and his coach at Stanford, Skip Kenney, sees him breaking the one-minute barrier in the 100 breast "within three years." In L.A., Moffet will take the race out fast in hopes of going under 1:02.
If Moffet surpasses that time, so will Lundquist, 23, of Jonesboro, Ga., the quintessential big-meet performer. Lunk is back in top shape after a shoulder separation that kept him out of the water for several months and caused him to bloat from 185 to 205 pounds. A diet of salad, water and iced tea trimmed Lundquist down, however, and now he rates as the ever-so-slim favorite.
Davis, 20, the world-record holder and world champion in the 200 breast, has had to overcome maladies far more serious than obesity. After contracting mononucleosis in June of 1983, he dropped from 185 to 170 pounds, developed a badly swollen spleen and couldn't return to the water to train until September. And just when he was rounding into form this spring, he was felled by a severe sciatic nerve condition. As recently as early May, he could barely walk.
But Davis is a fighter—literally. His grandfather Al was a boxing coach who sent three of his charges to the 1948 Olympics. Victor, who's from Guelph, Ont., has tried the sport himself. Moffet recalls sitting in the waiting room with him before the 200 breast finals at the 1982 world championships in Guayaquil, Ecuador. "He was walking around shadowboxing, huffing and puffing," says Moffet. Davis left the room moments later and punched out his first world record. Two months later, at the Common-wealth Games in Brisbane, Australia, Queen Elizabeth, who has seen plenty of dukes in her time, was startled by the sight of Davis knocking a chair into the pool after a relay disqualification. That incident drew wide media attention, as did accusations in November 1983 that Davis had been involved in a stabbing that occurred during a party held in his apartment in Waterloo, Ont. Davis's bad-boy image had been made forever.
Davis swam a 1:02.87 in the 100 breast at the Canadian Olympic trials in June and should be a close third in that event in L.A., behind Lundquist and Moffet. He should win the 200, with Moffet again second. Davis cut his 200 world record from 2:14.77 to 2:14.58 at the Canadian trials, and don't be surprised if he takes it lower than that in the Olympic pool. Says Moffet, "It's going to be fun to race him."
Davis's equally talented countryman, Alex Baumann of Sudbury, Ont., holds world records in both the 200 and 400 individual medleys. He set the 200 IM mark (2:02.25) at the '82 Commonwealth Games and the 400 IM record (4:17.53) at the Canadian trials. "Baumann is the only swimmer who doesn't have a weak stroke in any of the four disciplines—freestyle, back, breast and butterfly. Even [Mark] Spitz was weak on the breast," says Doc Counsilman, Spitz's old coach.