Mike and Kathy Barton
There, amid the rustling cornfields of Homer, Mich., stand Mike and Kathleen Barton, proprietors of a 2,200-acre spread that is home to 6,000 pigs. Their restored Victorian farmhouse has also been home to three champion kayakers, one of whom, Greg, 24, will be churning up the water at the Olympics. (His brother Bruce made the ’76 and ’80 teams.) The family began paddling when Mike, now 53, realized that “I was 35, bored with life and fed up with hogs. I saw a canoe race and thought that looked like fun.” Though they’ll be in L.A. for the Games, “we won’t be able to cheer or yell,” says Kathy, 52, because of a conflict of interest: They’ll be working as volunteers at the canoeing competition.
On top of a gutted tenement in Harlem, in heat that raises small bubbles of tar, Herbert Breland, 45, works on. The foreman of a roofing team, Herbert’s hands bespeak a life of hard work and skill. Son Mark also has remarkable hands—ones that have been held aloft in victory more than 100 times as an amateur welterweight boxer. Yet when Herbert and his wife of 29 years, Lue Misher, leave their Brooklyn home for L.A., Herbert probably won’t be ringside. “Herbert,” reveals Lue Misher, 43, “doesn’t like to watch Mark box. He doesn’t go to his fights.”
Bob and Lois Lundquist
From the first, champion breaststroker Steve Lundquist was a water baby. Mom Lois, 55, chuckles as she shows off a photo of Steve splashing about in waterlogged diapers. Growing up on the shore of Lake Spivey in Jonesboro, Ga., Steve’s talent surfaced early. So the Lundquists became more and more involved in aquatics, learning to time races and helping to build a nearby swimming pool, Dad Bob, 54, a business consultant, relished the quiet moments, however. “Many’s the time,” he says, “that I rowed across the lake with Steve swimming alongside me.”
Kenneth and Ann Staver
“Instead of playing golf,” says Ann Staver, 58, “we have sheep.” She and husband Kenneth, 64, are public-school educators who bought a farm 33 years ago. On their 129 acres outside Hershey, Pa. their daughter, Julie, ran up and down the hills with her two brothers. That helped earn Julie spots on the past three World Cup field hockey teams. A member of a 4-H Club in high school, she also learned to shear the family’s 60-ewe flock. How will they keep Julie down on the farm after the bright lights of L.A.? Easy. In addition to her prowess as a midfielder, Staver is a practicing veterinarian.
Gladys Moses, 55, possesses the same air of self-assurance that characterizes her middle son, Edwin, the world champion 400-meter hurdler. “I feel proud of Edwin,” she says. “I remember the little money his father [now dead] and I sent him in college for a used Plymouth so he could drive to meets.” A public-school administrator in Dayton, Ohio, Gladys laughs at the only track advice she has ever given him. “I told him, Please, lean at the tape!’ ” Being an obedient son, Edwin has done just that for 89 straight victories.
Dick and Bruce Kimball
When Dick Kimball, 49, heard his infant son, Bruce, pipe up with “Gonna do a back twister, Daddy,” he knew his son had dived headlong into the family business. Dick, a veteran coach at the University of Michigan, is also going to the Olympics, where he will coach the diving team, which includes son Bruce on the platform. Dick and wife Gail, 44, live in Ann Arbor, Mich. and cherish a photograph of their baby son. Bruce’s swimsuit is emblazoned with the prophetic legend “1984—Olympic Champ.”
Jackie [Decker] Baker
Lounging on the waterbed in her San Juan Capistrano, Calif. mobile home, caterer Jackie Baker, 45, exults over the post-Olympic blowout she’s been planning ever since her youngest child, middle-distance runner Mary Decker, left Soviet competitors in the dust at last year’s world championships. “It’s a party I think about every day,” she crows. Divorced in 1976 from Mary’s father, she remarried in 1982 and still swaps clothes with Mary. Not a runner herself, Jackie says that her daughter’s talent wows her: “Mary’s done it on her own. I never had any advice for her. I just made spaghetti and told her not to bite her fingernails.”
Bill and Evelyn Lewis
Bill and Evelyn Lewis founded a town track club 15 years ago in Willingboro, N.J. Every year they coach some 150 children in the finer points of running, jumping, shot-putting, etc. Yet none of their pupils has achieved the fame of their own offspring, Carl and Carol. Carl, 23, has a shot at four gold medals, while Carol, 20, has emerged as America’s premier long jumper. “Coaching them,” says Evelyn, 54, “was very rewarding.” Carol was the more promising athlete as a child. “Carl took his lumps for many, many years,” says Bill, 57, “while Carol could always put things together.” The Lewises are both teachers—he in social studies, she in phys ed—at rival high schools. Their other children, Mackie and Cleve, were also outstanding athletes, but family life was not monopolized by shoptalk. “We were into track,” says Evelyn, “but after we left it for the day, that was it. We’d go home and be just another family.”
Ronnie and Lois Retton
In the little town of Fairmont, W.Va., the sign on Main Street announces that, yes, this is indeed “Mary Lou Retton’s Home.” America’s best, if at 4’9″ its littlest, hope for a gold medal in gymnastics grew up here, where her 46-year-old father, Ronnie, a onetime Yankee farm team shortstop, runs a company that repairs coal-mine cables. However, over the past two years, Mary Lou has trained in Houston, and this separation pains her mother, Lois, 47. “Her hands are all callused, and she’s working so hard,” she says, “I’d like her to rest her little body. She’s so tiny. You should see her in jeans and a T-shirt—she looks even smaller.” Adds Mom, “She’s just a little girl.”
Fred and Linda Gaylord
At Fred and Linda Gaylord’s comfortable home in Van Nuys, Calif., praise is a pie they split equally among their three children. While their middle child, Olympic gymnast Mitch, is a two-time all-around national champion, the Gaylords devote the same attention to their daughter’s choice of college and to following their elder son’s career, (A former gymnast, Chuck now coaches his brother, and has also trained Kevin Bacon for Footloose.) This week, however, they I will focus on Mitch. Fred, a 46-year-old financial executive, expects to s be as nervous as ever. “My famous saying is that they’re not butterflies in your stomach when you’re watching,” he says. “They’re American eagles jumping around.”
Sam and Vietta Ashford
Despite spending 28 years in the U.S. Air Force, many of them abroad, Samuel Ashford’s accent remains Alabama-resonant as he tries to describe his firstborn daughter, Evelyn, as a child. “She reminded me of a tiger,” says Sam, 50, “laying around sleeping till she got hungry.” His wife of 29 years, Vietta, chimes in: “She was a start-and-stop sort of child. She only had two speeds, either she was running full tilt or sitting quietly, reading.” That full-tilt speedster has blossomed into America’s premier woman sprinter. Sam and Vietta enjoy the laid-back pace of fishing, and their accommodations in L.A. hook in well with their favorite hobby. After watching their tiger burn bright in the Coliseum, the Ashfords will be staying on a boat.
“Nobody pushes me around,” chortles Rachel Smith, 71, though some fowl play is clearly allowed. The grande dame of a distinguished Memphis stable, Smith and her husband of 46 years, Hugh Frank, 70, have raised a filly by the name of Melanie. A tough old bird, Rachel credits strict rules and no TV with producing our leading equestrienne, Rachel, who placed her daughter atop her first pony at the age of 3, announces that Melanie stayed put-otherwise, “I’d have whipped her.”