'Nothing bothers a champion,' not even Los Angeles
Los Angeles — As the last-arriving members of the US Olympic team filtered into the city this week, many athletes showed little concern with the woes of this Olympiad - the East-bloc boycott, Los Angeles smog, or tight living quarters.
And they showed little taste for pre-Olympic hype in the press, which many escaped as long as possible at remote training sites.
Their first stop, before checking into the tightly guarded Olympic villages, was at a sort of wardrobe assembly-line run by team outfitter Levi Strauss & Co. , where athletes were fitted into matching red, white, and blue suits of clothes for Olympic functions.
As warm-ups and blazers were fitted to their wildly various physiques, the athletes seemed to look ahead at these games with a competitive vigor only slightly tainted by regret, and then only on the outer edges.
''I don't even think about the boycott anymore,'' says Sydney Maree, a slight 1,500-meters runner who left South Africa seven years ago (he is black) and became a US citizen in May. ''It doesn't even seem like part of the games. ... To me, just to be here is very exciting.''
''Still you sit back and wonder if the Olympics will ever be the same.''
Michael Carter, a shot-putter from Dallas, trying to find a warm-up suit that would accommodate his massive thighs, has a similar view of the boycott. ''I forgot all about it. I wish (the boycotting teams) were here, but now it's just the Olympics.''
''It's a shame,'' says August Wolf, world leader in the shot put this season, explaining that the US had a good chance to break up Eastern Europe's recent dominance in his event. The shot-putters can't prove it now to their best competitors, he says, ''but we're very, very strong here in the United States.''
Mr. Wolf, from Princeton, N.J., has just returned from three weeks in West Germany ''to get away from all the hype.''
Is he concerned about southern California's recent smog and heat wave?
''My motto is: A champion lets nothing bother him. The more you think about it, the more it bothers you.''
''I don't have time to think about those things,'' says Sharrieffa Barksdale, a 400-meter hurdler from Harriman, Tenn. ''I just think about going out to run my race.''
Weather conditions don't bother Sydney Maree either. ''We're all going to be in the same boat.''
The heat concerns 50-kilometer racewalker Carl Schueler, who has been training in Colorado. ''But it's cooler than I expected,'' he says. ''If it's like this, I won't complain.''
Mr. Schueler notes less Olympic hype than a couple of months ago - ''a little less hype and more fun and competition.''
''This will be the most visible Olympics,'' says pole-vaulter Earl Bell of Jonesboro, Ark. ''You won't be able to turn around without seeing something on it (in the press). But ... I think that makes it more fun.''
Miss Barksdale figured the full impact of the games would hit her in the opening ceremonies Saturday. ''I've never seen anything like that before. ... I still just can't believe I'm on the team.''