If the troubled XXI Olympic Games are indeed held as scheduled next summer in Montreal, sturdy Bruce Jenner, 26, could well emerge as the headline hero. Jenner’s specialty is the grueling decathlon, which tests entrants in the javelin, distance runs and sprints, high jump, hurdles, pole vault, shot put and discus. He recently scored 8,524 points in the 10 events, a world record. At Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa, Jenner saw his first decathlon. “It was love at first sight,” he remembers. Until then he had been a football player and a three-time eastern water skiing champion. Jenner, who lives in San Jose, Calif. with his wife, Chrystie, trains six hours a day and then suits up and sells insurance. He placed 10th in the 1972 Olympics decathlon, witnessed the violence at Munich and is afraid of a repeat in Montreal. “The Olympics have gotten expensive and political,” he says. “It scares me a little.”
In the Soviet Union, Vasili Alexeyev, a defending Olympic gold medalist, is a national hero. He has broken 69 world weight-lifting records, was the first man to lift 500 pounds and won the world’s strongest man title six times. Vasili, 33, lives with his wife and two sons in a comfortable home in the mining village of Shakhty, about 800 miles southwest of Moscow. He hoists weights in his garden, grows vegetables and enjoys a reputation as a gourmet cook. He also likes to sing. “It is a fact,” he says modestly, “that I have the best voice on the Soviet weight-lifting team.”
“People make me paranoid,” says Sheila Young of Detroit. “They tell me to concentrate on one race so I’ll be sure of a gold medal.” But Sheila, 24, likes three of the speedskating events (the 500, 1,000 and 1,500) and could win three gold medals at the February Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria. She currently is training in West Allis, Wis. and nursing a foot she injured playing soccer. “C’mon legs, just one more race,” she coaxes as she hurtles around the oval ice track. During the summer she also plans to compete in tournament cycling and then settle down with cyclist Jim Ochowicz. “But don’t let my dad know,” she adds quickly. “I haven’t told him yet.”
If Madeline Manning Jackson mounts the winners’ stand after the 800-meter Olympic run and belts out a verse of Shall We Gather at the River?, it would be startling but not out of character. A gospel singer, Madeline, 27, performs each Sunday at churches in Cleveland, where she lives with her son, John, 5. Last spring she set a U.S. record in the 800, the event she won at the 1968 games. “The Lord gave me the talent to run,” says Madeline, who also teaches phys. ed. at the Salvation Army, “so I can tell people about Jesus.”
“He’s the original petrified man,” says shy Tim Shaw’s coach. Tim, 18, is the best thing to happen to U.S. swimming since Mark (the Shark) Spitz. At next summer’s games, Tim could win three individual gold medals and help snare one more in the relays. He has set world records in the 200-, 400-, 800-, and 1,500-meter freestyle. A student at Cal State at Long Beach, Tim trains four hours a day and also plays on his school’s water polo team. His diet is All-American—strictly hamburgers and Cokes.
After Teofilo Stevenson of Cuba won a gold medal at the 1972 Olympic Games, there were experts who claimed he was potentially the best fighter alive. Now, at 24, Stevenson is even better—a shoo-in to win the heavyweight division. “I’d like to win another gold medal in Moscow (1980),” says Stevenson, an engineering student. “Then I will devote myself to the studies and the little ones.” He spends considerable time with youth groups in Havana. His winning boxing formula: “I hit them and they fall—that’s all there is to it.”
“I’m not past my prime,” says 28-year-old Frank Shorter. And, just to prove it, he runs 20 miles a day on the mountain trails near Boulder, Colo. Since winning a gold medal in the 1972 marathon at Munich, Shorter has won five of the six marathons he has entered. Come July, he should earn a second gold medal, and possibly a third in the 10,000-meter race. Shorter sometimes trains with his wife, Louise, a graduate student at the University of Denver. Other gold medalists may have their hearts set on cashing in publicly on their fame with endorsements and the like, but not Shorter, a lawyer. “That’s a way to get disappointed,” he says.
Kornelia Ender, 17, is known as a “drop dead” sprinter for the way she burns into the lead and holds on. The blond, broad-shouldered Ender is the main reason why the East German women are expected to dominate swimming events. Ender could win three golds herself. This year she set world records in the 100-and 200-meter freestyle and the 100-meter butterfly. Born in Plauen, Ender won her first race at 9. Her power led one East German coach to boast: “For years we learn from the Americans, and now they ask us what our secret is.”
Ludmilla Tourischeva, 25, was an Olympian at 16, a world champion at 18 and the winner of two gold medals at Munich, and since October has reigned as World Cup Champion. Occasionally overshadowed by crowd-pleasing Olga Korbut—whom she has bested in all but two of 20 competitions—Ludmilla could take as many as four gold medals at Montreal. A native Groznyj, she overcame a serious back injury this past year and went on to lead Soviet gymnasts on a triumphant tour of the U.S. “Olga tries for spectacular things,” said one U.S. fan. “But Ludmilla goes for perfection.”
“It was the limit of what can be done,” said skier Franz Klammer after he had streaked downhill at a record-shattering 70 miles per hour. “I don’t think anything beyond that can be demanded.” Known as “The Astronaut” in his native Austria, Klammer, now 22, won his first championship at 17. Last year he swept a record six World Cup races in a row. He practices with balancing devices on his skis to perfect his form. Klammer, a handsome bachelor, refuses to watch his opponents race. “I might see a bad spill,” he says, “and get scared.”
Capt. Phil Boggs, 26, began swimming to keep up with his brothers, both college All-Americans. Though strong in the butterfly, Boggs switched to diving at Florida State University and now is the favorite to win the springboard event. He has already taken two world titles. Boggs, who is married to a graduate student, joined the Air Force in 1971 and is assigned to the academy in Colorado Springs. His coach is Capt. Micki King, a gold medalist in Olympic diving. “He’s a coach’s dream,” she says. “He’s so consistent he could make his dives with a broken leg.”