But Saturday, while she was breaking Laurie Lehner's year-old U.S. best in the 50, Sterkel was also losing her unblemished record at the distance. East Germany's Caren (Moose) Metschuck, the world's best 100 freestyler and a woman of notable girth, breadth and brawn—bigger than Sterkel—finished in a world-best 25.28 seconds, .32 ahead of Sterkel.
"I am mad," said Sterkel. "I swam a terrible race. My right foot kind of slipped back on the start, and my turn was awful. I wish I could throw it out and start all over."
She had another shot at Metschuck on the final freestyle leg of that night's 400 medley relay and got some measure of revenge: Her split was 54.64 compared to Metschuck's 55.76, and the U.S. team won in 4:06.43, a world best by .52. In Sunday's 100 free, Metschuck, who had also won the 100 butterfly, won again while Sterkel finished fourth.
Aside from Metschuck, the stars of the meet were Schneider and Geweniger, the two contrasting 18-year-olds from Karl-Marx-Stadt ( Schneider, like Caulkins, would turn 19 on Monday). Schneider is most successful in the 400 individual medley, while Geweniger dominates the breaststroke and is Schneider's match in the 200 IM. Both speak in low, husky voices—prompting charges of steroid use—but neither is the frightening man-woman creature that exists in the minds of many Westerners. Schneider, whose parents are divorced, lives with her mother, a chemical-lab worker, and to be distinctive wears two earrings in her right ear but only one in her left. Geweniger, the daughter of a butcher, likes reggae and disco music and wants to be a cosmetologist. "In the future I will be able to use the psychological aspects to my advantage over Tracy because I have won here," she said.
For this year the "future" consists of just one meet, the world championships to be held Aug. 2 to 8 in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Vassallo, who was a local hero at the 1979 Pan Am Games in Puerto Rico, can't wait to compete in another Latin American venue. Most of the other American swimmers, who were unshaved and unrested for the International, are eager to show that their performances in Gainesville were an early-season fluke. As Caulkins said when it was all over, "This kind of meet can help us. The next time we'll be the ones out for revenge. Next time we're going to want it more."