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Steve Lundquist rose from his chair in an Indianapolis hotel room last Friday night, a simple enough procedure for the brawny world-record holder in the 100-meter breaststroke, but one he would come to regret. Well, at least regret for 24 hours. The 21-year-old SMU senior and his fellow swimmers had come to Indianapolis for the U.S. Long Course Championships, hoping to smash a slew of world records, thereby helping to offset their less than brilliant showing at the recent World Aquatic Championships in Equador. And what more likely place in which to do it than the spanking-new Natatorium, a multimillion-dollar swimming heaven? But with three of four days of competition over, the U.S. was bombing again. Only one record had been broken, the American mark in the 800 freestyle, by Tony Corbisiero, an injury-prone Columbia University senior from Queens, N.Y.
Injuries and infirmities seemed to go hand in hand with success at Indianapolis, all of which brings us back to last Friday night: Lundquist arose from his chair, and his left knee buckled painfully beneath him. By morning it was swollen, but he iced it down and said a few prayers, and that evening he dived from the block in the finals of the 100 breaststroke. One minute and 2.53 seconds later he had broken his own world record of 1:02.62, set 33 days earlier at the World Trials in Mission Viejo, Calif. Then he informed the world of his knee trouble.
"When did it start?" he was asked.
"When I was 13 and messing around doing crazy stuff," he said. "But don't ask what. And then it didn't bother me again until last night."
"Did it really hurt while you were swimming?"
"It certainly hurt all day," he said. "On the dive, I put most of the pressure on my right knee, but when I started kicking—the breast kick is tough on the knees—there was no pain. It hurt afterward, though, and it hurts now, but the world record kind of dulls the pain."
"What's going to be your next goal, the Olympics?"
"No, it's helping SMU win next year's NCAAs. I think they're going to be held here [in March], and this is an incredible facility, by the way."
That facility, by the way, caused even more excitement at Indianapolis than did Lundquist, though few of the swimmers had any conception of the intricate planning that went into building it. They could see the six-lane, 50-meter warmup pool, the eight-lane, 50-meter competition pool, the elevators to the diving platforms, the railings on the starting blocks and the advanced gutter system that keeps waves from rebounding off the pool sides as well as any other in the country, and that the competition pool was unusually deep. But they couldn't know the lengths to which the designers had gone to make the pool fast: for example, that crystals of potassium permanganate had been placed at various depths of several test pools, and that swimmers had then been directed to pass over them. At a depth of 7� feet, it was observed that the crystals no longer scattered. So, to be on the safe side, the pool was given a uniform depth of 10 feet, with the result that there is no turbulence off the bottom.
Lundquist was one of only five U.S. swimmers who won individual events at the worlds—his victory was in the 100 breast—which had begun just five days after the trials ended. And the long course nationals followed the worlds by only 11 days. So hopes for redemption at Indianapolis may not have been realistic. As Mission Viejo Coach Mark Schubert put it, "The majority of the people at this meet are on the back side of too many tapers, three of them in as many weeks. They're not in condition to deliver maximum performances."