Boycott or not, the U.S.' top swimmers will still be taking part this summer in Olympic-level competition of sorts—by proxy. After the U.S. Olympic Committee voted to boycott the Moscow Games, swim officials canceled the Olympic Trials scheduled for last month in Austin, Texas and decided to choose an honorary Olympic team based on the results of the U.S. Outdoor Championships in Irvine, Calif. That meet then was moved up by two weeks, so that it now will begin July 29, two days after the final swimming event in Moscow. Swimmers in Irvine thus will have the winning Olympic times to shoot at and, if possible, to improve upon.
By way of motivating them to do exactly that, some U.S. coaches have been invoking the case of Jonty Skinner, a University of Alabama sprinter who had to sit out the 1976 Games because he was a native of South Africa, a country barred from Olympic competition. Skinner watched on TV as Jim Montgomery of the U.S. won the gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle in Montreal in a world-record 49.99, then eclipsed Montgomery's performance two weeks later at the AAU nationals in Philadelphia with a stunning 49.44, still the world record. Skinner pointedly called the Philadelphia meet "my personal Olympics."
But the Skinner precedent is an imperfect one. Now an assistant coach at Alabama, Skinner notes that while he had long since resigned himself to missing the Olympics—and had begun gearing himself to the Philadelphia meet more than a year in advance—the boycott came as a jolt to American athletes. "I knew I was never going to get the chance to compete in the Olympics, and a lot of my career was pointed to other goals," he says. "But with the boycott, the athletes' incentive, drive and sacrifice have been taken away from them, and it's very difficult to compensate for their dreams in another meet."
Still, Skinner allows that part of his motivation in smashing Montgomery's record was "antagonism for the political situation" that had kept him out of the Olympics, a feeling that some American swimmers in Irvine will no doubt also harbor. To further rouse them to a competitive pitch, meet officials say that before each event, they will put on the scoreboard the winning time from the Moscow Olympics.
BAD DEAL FOR THE CARDS
St. Louis players occupied positions 1, 3, 7, 9 and 10 in the National League batting race, but when balloting for the All-Star Game ended, none of the hot-hitting Cardinals was in the starting lineup. The slighted Cards were First Baseman Keith Hernandez (.335), Shortstop Garry Templeton (.322), Rightfielder George Hendrick (.311), Catcher Ted Simmons (.305) and Third Baseman Ken Reitz (.300), all of whom also happen to be solid defensively. Templeton, Hernandez and Simmons placed third at their postions and Reitz sixth, while Hendrick was only 11th among outfielders.
The Cardinals' Forgotten Five suffered from the fact that they were long on performance but short on national publicity. One Cardinal in exactly the opposite situation was teammate Bobby Bonds, who was hitting .192 with four home runs yet placed an undeservedly high 12th among outfielders. "It's a joke, just a popularity contest," admitted Bonds, who leads the league only in honesty. "I'm right behind Hendrick. I don't even belong on the ballot."
ENDANGERED PANOPLIED PACHYDERMS
Imagine the circus without elephants and chimpanzees. According to officials of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, it just might happen. The worldwide population of Asian elephants, the species favored by The Greatest Show on Earth, has dwindled to 10,000, and because they are on the U.S. Interior Department's endangered-species list, there are strict limits on their importation. What's more, the chimpanzees imported for the circus are a "threatened" species and are similarly controlled. And under the Animal Welfare Act of 1976, special care is required for marine animals, a category construed to include polar bears. Ringling Brothers has secured a stay of that law until 1982, at which time it will be obliged to find or build a pool for polar bears in each city it visits.