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"I pulled my gastroc doing dumb calf-raise things that I shouldn't even have been doing for skating," she said, pointing out the gastroc muscle—which must be somewhere in the calf—to the assembled ignoramuses of the press. "It strained the tendons, and now they're really swollen and deformed and lumpy and ugly and they hurt."
During her workouts early in the week Thomas struggled with her jumps, but McGowan could take some comfort in her history of skating poorly in practice and then excelling in competition. Sure enough, in Wednesday's compulsories, which accounted for 30% of the scoring, Thomas was easily the best of the women. She was so relaxed she studied biology between doing her figures.
The surprise second-place finisher in the compulsories was Jill Trenary, 18, a Minnetonka, Minn., native who has lived in Colorado Springs the last 2� years so that she could work under renowned coach Carlo Fassi, who has tutored, among others, Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill. In third place was Caryn Kadavy, another Fassi pupil and the skater most insiders figured to pose the greatest threat to Thomas. Tiffany Chin, the 1985 U.S. champ, stood fourth.
"I kept reading in the newspapers, ' Jill Trenary muddles up Senior Ladies Division,' " Trenary would later recall, wrinkling her nose primly at the notion of muddling up anything. "That pushed me to prove them wrong."
Trenary, a senior at Cheyenne Mountain High, may have been a new face, but she had a pretty good track record. Last December she finished second in the Prize of Moscow News competition, the only non-Soviet to win a medal, and in 1985 she won the U.S. junior championship. In last year's nationals she finished fifth in the senior division, a remarkable performance not only because she was only 17 but also because seven months earlier, in June '85, a skating mishap nearly ended her career.
During a routine practice she and another skater collided while jumping, and two calf muscles in Trenary's left leg were severed. They had to be surgically reconnected, and Trenary spent the next two months in a cast, wondering whether she would ever compete again. Now, less than two years later, she was talking about dethroning Thomas. "I feel like the one who's up-and-coming," Trenary announced after her surprising show in the figures. "It's possible for me to win."
Rumors notwithstanding, Thomas didn't seem very vulnerable after completing the short program. Skating to the same music (Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood) that she used in last year's nationals and worlds, Thomas unveiled her black sequined unitard outfit—the majority of the men dressed more femininely—and performed flawlessly. "My music's pretty rocked out, so a skirt looks funny with it," she said. "I think the Europeans will like it."
Trenary followed with an equally flawless short to cement her hold on second. Kadavy, however, skated disastrously, botching her combination jump and falling on her double Axel ("We call that a Waxel," one skater remarked as Kadavy sprawled inelegantly across the ice), which allowed Chin to move into third place. "I came to compete," Chin said afterward in what, sadly, may turn out to be her final press conference as an amateur. "I'm not a mush pot."
None of these skaters is. In fact the American women have never been stronger. In Saturday's freestyle, however, only Trenary shone. To retain her title, Thomas still had to beat Trenary in the long program, which accounted for 50% of the scoring. Things didn't bode well when Thomas discovered on Saturday morning that her left tendon was unusually sore and she was having trouble pushing off with that skate. A concerned McGowan decided to reduce the number of triple jumps in Thomas's long program from five to three. "Major BTB," Thomas said later. "Big-time boo-boo. We thought if we played it safe things would work out, but that's not me."
On her first triple toe loop, Thomas, wearing a traditional emerald dress, stumbled. The setback seemed to draw the fire right out of her. The woman with the nerves of steel, who is usually at her best in big events, was suddenly mortal. She did land her two other triples, but her performance was flat. It lacked her typical jazzy, daring style.