A steamy afternoon in Honolulu. One of America’s top Olympic hopes in swimming lies bare chested in a tangle of bedsheets in a hotel room. A 16-year-old blonde perches on the bed and slowly unbuttons her shirt. On the other side of the mattress, an equally unfastened 19-year-old brunette peppers his damp forehead with kisses. Nestled between these two teenage minxes, breaststroke champion Steve Lundquist stretches and smiles. “I like to balance my life,” he says contentedly, “by having fun.”
If that sounds like a fantasy, well, it is. A photographer’s command, “Make sure his upper torso is exposed,” snaps the sensual languor of the scene. Lundquist, the world record holder in the 100-meter breaststroke, and the nymphets are just doing their job as models on a three-day assignment in Hawaii for a new bronzer and fragrance for men. Lundquist, brush cut towhead, marine blue eyes and muscular body, has appeared in Playboy, Vanity Fair, L’Uomo Vogue and Interview magazines during the past year, sometimes earning as much as $2,000 a day. Photographer Bruce Weber has used the 6’2″, 181-pound Lundquist for various projects because “Steve has great charm and photographs well,” says Weber. “More than anything else, he has stature. When you look at him, you know he’s a champion.”
Lundquist’s swimming rivals would surely agree. In addition to his individual world record, the Georgia-born-and-bred Lundquist shares (with three others) the world record in the 400-meter medley relay. He will be trying for berths in the 100-meter butterfly, 100-meter freestyle, 100-and 200-meter breaststroke and the 200-meter individual medley at this week’s Olympic Trials in Indianapolis. (The trials will be televised at the end of June.) Even before the Communist bloc pullout, Lundquist expected most of his competition to come from his American teammates. Being realistic, his coach, Eddie Sinnott of Southern Methodist University, says, “Steve has a very good chance of winning two gold medals. If you’ve talked to him, you know he’s trying for five.”
An outstanding member of the 1980 squad, Lundquist would have retired had the U.S. not boycotted the Moscow Olympics. At 23, Lundquist admits he feels “old” for his sport, so to avoid burnout, he prescribes a steady diet of high-speed thrills. “I love to go out with my buddies,” he confesses, and “laugh and do all the stuff I’m not supposed to do, like waterskiing or riding a motorcycle.”
Nicknamed “Lunk” (as in Hunk), Lundquist had a serious motorcycle accident in 1981, followed two years later by a waterskiing fall that severely dislocated his shoulder. “Steve’s abused his body,” coach Sinnott has said. “He likes to have fun, but the injuries it’s caused might go against him.”
Since this is his last shot at the Olympics, there is increased pressure for Lundquist. “You train for six months,” he relates, “1,200 meters a day, realizing that your coaches, parents and team are depending on you, not to mention the pressure of living up to predictions and expectations. You can have every record in the world, and for the Olympics it all comes down to one day, one swim, one turn, one stroke. The biggest danger is getting too psyched up.”
Lundquist grew up outside Jonesboro, Ga., “a sit-back-and-relax kind of place.” The son of a well-off manufacturer’s consultant, Steve was waterskiing and swimming as soon as he knew how to walk. At 12, four years after he first tasted chlorine at a local swim club, Lundquist was breaking national records in both the butterfly and breaststroke. An international competitor by high school, Lundquist attended SMU and will graduate from there with a business degree next year.
At present he trains in Austin, Texas, where he shares a house—and sloppy-joe meals—with three swimmers and a bartender. Putting in double shifts, he swims from 6:30 to 8 a.m. and again from 3 to 5 p.m., with weight training twice a week. After the Olympics he plans to enter Texas real estate, announcing firmly, “My goal is to be successful at whatever I do.”
And that includes modeling, although it could prove a tough profession for this red-blooded American boy. Gazing at the bare-breasted models on the rumpled bed in Hawaii, Lundquist exclaims, “Jiminy Christmas! I’m turning real red. I can’t handle this,” he says. “This is pretty wild.” Nice work, though, if you can get it.