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Try to think of women who have performed on a world-class level in more than one sport and you get as far as Babe Zaharias. Try to come up with anyone who has held world championships simultaneously in two sports and you get Sheila Young, speed skater and cyclist, plus a turn-of-the-century Dutchman who did it in the same sports.
In Innsbruck Young won the gold medal in the 500 meters, her specialty, the silver in the 1,500 and the bronze in the 1,000. No American had ever won three medals in Winter Olympic competition. At the World Sprint Championships in Berlin in March she swept all four races at 500 and 1,000 meters and won the gold medal for the third time.
Then, in the cycling season, at the World Sprint Championships in Italy, Young upset the defending champion for her second world sprint title. The first was in Spain in 1973 when her opponent had caused her to crash in the first heat. Young came back in the rerun, cut and bandaged, with surgical clamps holding together a gash in her scalp, and won in straight heats. An awed reporter said, "She must have been the toughest girl in the world."
What began on a frozen pond in Riverside, Conn. culminated 11 years later on the victory stand in Innsbruck when 19-year-old Dorothy Hamill smiled demurely and myopically out at an admiring world beyond the lights.
She has been called "captivating," "winsome" and "impeccable," all of which overlooks the fact that first of all she is a profoundly dedicated athlete. Seven hours a day, six days a week, for three years she prepared herself for Innsbruck. "On the seventh day I took ballet lessons," she says. She conquered a weakness in the compulsory figures, and she controlled her tendency toward debilitating attacks of stage fright. Her "short program" earned her nothing lower than a 5.8, even a perfect 6.0 from one judge.
A month after Innsbruck she won the world championships in G�teborg, Sweden, and then she turned pro. Now, for the Ice Capades, she skates five minutes a show, nine shows a week, 25 weeks a year, gets $2 million for her efforts and nobody begrudges her a penny.
The year was no more than half over when Judy Rankin became the first woman golfer to earn $100,000 in a single season. It was an interesting milestone, but with LPGA purses on the rise, an inevitable one. More significant was her year as a whole. She played 26 tournaments, won six, finished in the top ten 19 times and earned a total of $150,734.
To understand how completely Rankin dominated the LPGA tour this year it helps to translate her winnings into male dollars. If Jack Nicklaus had won the same share of the men's total purses that Rankin did of the women's, Nicklaus would have earned roughly $482,000 instead of $266,438. "It's been a matter of consistency," says Rankin. "I haven't had any bad weeks. If you can stay close, a lot of nice things will happen."
When Nadia Comaneci scored a 10 on the uneven bars on the opening night of the gymnastics schedule in Montreal, the first perfect score ever awarded in Olympic gymnastics, a howl of protest went up from certain Eastern European quarters. Comaneci responded that no one should have been surprised, since she had done it 15 times before.