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For hours John Moffet had sat through massages and ice packs and even a Xylocaine injection, yet by the middle of the afternoon Sunday, while fans assembled at the Olympic pool for what would turn out to be a spectacular opening session of swimming finals—including two world records—Moffet's newly torn muscle in his upper right thigh had only worsened. He was no longer sure if he could even swim in his final of the 100-meter breast-stroke, in which he was favored. "I knew it wasn't anything minor," Moffet would say later, smiling sadly, "because I could barely walk."
The muscle had given out midway through Moffet's morning qualifying swim. Gliding along on pace to equal or better his own month-old world record of 1:02.13, Moffet had pushed too hard coming out of his flip-turn at 50 meters. From then on, the pain had throbbed with each frog-like thrust of his breast-stroke kick. Moffet had held on to qualify first in 1:02.16, but he'd left the pool limping. By the time he tried a warmup swim just an hour before his final, he couldn't kick with any power—and his kicking is perhaps his greatest strength. Moffet, a quiet 20-year-old from Costa Mesa, Calif., a former age-group star who had learned to swim before he could walk, had waited a lifetime for this chance at the Games; his mother, Judy, had even lit the pilot light of the Moffet family stove from the Olympic flame. But Moffet's hopes died with his warmup swim. "It was a disaster," said U.S. head coach Don Gambril later. "He got out and told me he didn't think he could even go 1:10."
Moffet's longtime rival, former world-record holder Steve Lundquist, was not unaware of this. "I knew there was a commotion among the coaches to get him well," said Lunk, who had qualified fifth in the 100 breast with a typically sluggish morning swim of 1:03.55. Lundquist, 23, will soon get a business degree from SMU, and he had approached these Games as both a gifted athlete and an enterprising self-marketer. Awaiting him are careers in modeling and promotion, and he had wasted no opportunity to turn on his wit, smile and likable Southern humor for press or business contacts. This would be the last 100-meter breaststroke race ever for Lundquist, who had triumphed dramatically at every major competition of his career. In corporate jargon, Lundquist is A Winner. Here, to his delight, he would have 10,690 roaring spectators and a world-wide TV audience watching him.
At the gun Lundquist took off with a high jackknife dive—his flamboyant trademark—and surfaced with a two-foot lead. Moffet, his upper right thigh tightly swaddled with a bandage, was struggling desperately to challenge, but to no avail. "Right before we went out," said Lundquist later, "John told me, 'If something goes wrong with my leg, get the gold for the U.S.A.' " At 50 meters Lundquist had a full meter on second-place Victor Davis of Canada, flip-turning at 28.88 seconds, world-record pace. Moffet hit 50 meters in 30.08, dead last in the field of eight.
Davis, the world's best 200-meter breaststroker, started closing slightly on Lundquist in the final 50, but Lunk's pace was still astonishing. Quite clearly, Moffet's world record was being demolished. At the touch it was Lundquist in 1:01.65 and Davis in 1:01.99. The stadium rocked with noise. Moffet came in unnoticed, a gutsy fifth in 1:03.29.
Lundquist had broken the 100-breast world record for the fifth time in two years. "I felt like the Grinch that stole Christmas," he said again and again. But he was soon reminded that he might well have ended up like Moffet, a mere ham-and-green-egger. In a walkway beneath the bleachers Lundquist ran into Dr. Ted Becker, the team trainer who had brought him through the long months of rehabilitation that followed the severe shoulder separation he suffered while water skiing last September. As they met now, Becker was crying. Lundquist embraced him. "What that man has done for me I could never repay in two lifetimes," Lundquist would say. "Part of the medal is his."
And part was Moffet's. "I wouldn't be half as good as I am today without John Moffet," said Lundquist. He had consoled his friend at the end of the race, but Moffet's eyes were still teary an hour later. He was on crutches. "At least he knows he gave it his best," said Gambril. "You don't want to be looking back 20 years from now and saying, 'If only I had tried....' " Anyone who saw Sunday's race will recall how Moffet tried.
Those looking back on the Games 20 years from now will also recall Sunday's curious yet historic women's 100 freestyle final. The race ended with so close a battle for first place between U.S. teammates Carrie Steinseifer and Nancy Hogshead that even the electronic timing system couldn't figure it out.
What happened was that Steinseifer, who had come on with a late-race surge, and Hogshead, who had led for the last 30 meters, reached for the wall simultaneously. They looked up through the glaring afternoon sun at the scoreboard and saw identical 55.92s beside their names. But Steinseifer, for no apparent reason, was listed as the winner. For a moment, no one knew what had happened. Then Steinseifer, a 16-year-old high-schooler from Saratoga, Calif., threw a fist in the air and began a celebration. She's something of a footloose spirit who floats around pool decks wearing a Walkman, white-rimmed sunglasses and pink high-top Converses. Here she more or less went berserk. After all, she had become the first American woman in 12 years to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual swimming event. Or at least that's what she thought.
Hogshead, 22, from Jacksonville, Fla., a sharp-minded young woman who plans to become an attorney someday, quickly straightened her out. "Carrie was over there hooting and hollering," said Hogshead, "and I just looked at her time and my time..."