While Mary, like most girls in Madison, had a crush on Eric, Sarah worshiped Beth. "I was her little shadow," says Sarah, "she was my idol. She did all the things I wanted to do." In 1977 the Docters began to go into metric-style racing, the way Olympic events are held. Now Sarah was out to beat Beth, and Beth grew testy. "We had to pretend to be friendly," says Sarah. Sarah was in Beth's shadow until Beth retired after a disappointing 1980 Olympics—she won only a bronze, in the 3,000, while Eric got those five golds.
"Now that Beth is gone," says Sarah, "it is more relaxing to me. It's sort of fun to be top dog. All the young ones look up to me."
"It's really hard to have a sister like Sarah," says Mary, "because she's perfect. She always trains hard. She always does her homework. She never overeats. I don't think I'm jealous, but I'm envious. I could be like her if I really wanted to, but I just don't work at it.
"Sometimes I ask myself, 'Why am I in this damn sport, why do I put so much time into it if I don't want to win?' Other people tell me, if that fire is gone, that fire that makes you go, go, go, you should quit.' I know that fire isn't there, but I'm probably the second-best skater in the U.S. You can't complain about that. And in the back of my mind I still want to get better—not beat Sarah, just get better. There has never been anyone that I really wanted to beat."
Corby claims that Sarah's only shortcoming is that she won't rest. During the skaters' first three months of training each season, in October, November and December, they skate 600 to 700 miles a month, abusing their legs to the degree that tiny muscle tears appear. In January, when the serious racing season starts, skaters should cut down on distance work and do only short sprints, resting a good deal so that their muscles can regain their tone.
But Sarah takes to the ice even on rest days, and once out there she usually skates more laps than anybody else, even the men. When she is off the ice doing her running workouts, she outdoes all the women and most of the men, too. Sarah even beats her latest boyfriend, Werner Jäger, a 22-year-old speed skater from Innsbruck, Austria. Last December when Jäger spent a few weeks in West Allis, he and Sarah frequently went on five-minute runs and Sarah outsprinted him every time. "I think he's a chauvinistic type of person," says Sarah. "I am a better runner, and I outsprint him just to bother him. It really makes him so mad."
Sarah suddenly becomes pensive. "I am so competitive, even when I train," she says, "that I don't want to be in the same sport with someone I love." Does she love Werner? "Oh, no, no!" she protests. "I don't love him. I meant Mary."
Lest it be thought that Mary has all the fun and Sarah does all the hard work, it should be said that when it comes to having a good time, Sarah runs a close second to her sister. Even when she is tired from racing, a glass of wine can get her to dance up a storm. Still, first prize in the après skate world clearly goes to Mary. The famous Olympic Wet T Shirt Contest clinched the title for her.
It was not exactly an Olympic event, though it happened in Lake Placid. Mary and some other skaters—Craig Kressler, Jim Chapin and Mike Woods—were enjoying themselves at a disco called GAGS in nearby Saranac Lake. They found out that the special event of the evening was a wet T shirt contest with a first prize of $250. The three men urged Mary to enter, but she demurred. Nonetheless, when the contestants were announced, Mary heard her name. Her escorts had signed her up.
"Well, I'd had enough beer to think, hey, this is for $250, I might as well try," Mary says. "But when I looked at my competition, I wanted to get out. They were all older and, well, gross. We had to put on these tiny white T shirts, and someone poured two pitchers of ice-cold water over me. I was freezing. Then we had to dance, and those who got the most cheers advanced to the semis and the finals."