The best television of the season. Perfect casting, bone-chilling performances, tense cliff-hangers — and prices far below the Triplecast. That’s the skinny on the XXV Olympic Summer Games. Starting July 25, NBC will air 161 hours from Barcelona — with a constellation of the brightest on the track (Jackie Joyner-Kersee), in the pool (Summer Sanders), down the court (Teresa Edwards, Michael Jordan), through the air (Mike Powell, Carl Lewis), and between the bars (Kim Zmeskal, Shannon Miller). Here, Entertainment Weekly‘s picks for the most telegenic matchups (Dan and Dave, we already miss you), the most incredible comeback, the most golden romances (two American couples are competing), some superlative Dream Team stats, and a glimpse at how you’d fare against the best athletes. So you always thought you weren’t a heavy-medal fan? Think again.
Carl Lewis, U.S., vs. Mike Powell, U.S.
Finals: Aug. 6, 7:30 p.m.- midnight
History: In an astonishing 65 competitions in 10 years, Lewis was undefeated, but at last summer’s world championships in Tokyo, Powell took the gold, breaking Bob Beamon’s 23-year-old world record — with a jump of 29 feet 4 1/2 inches.
Marquee value: It will all come down to hang time. Ace sprinter Lewis has sacrificed his other events to stay competitive in the long jump, and he wants the record. Powell has spent four years focused on winning this one event. Can Carl’s overall talent overcome Mike’s single-minded desire?
Number of oympics: Three
Number of medals: Seven (six golds and one silver-in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, 4 x 100 relay, and long jump)
Motivation: Lewis would have retired from this event had he broken Beamon’s record at the ’91 world championships. Of his failure to do so, he says, ”The Lord gave me a little ‘knock, knock, knock — it’s not time to stop.”’ If he wins the long jump, Lewis will be the first man ever to win golds in the same track event in three consecutive Olympics.
Training: Does sprint work two hours a day, five days a week (surprisingly, no weight lifting, no sit-ups, no pull-ups), and works on the long jump (jumping, approach, and takeoff technique) two days a week.
Special pleasures: Potato chips, Unsolved Mysteries
Psycho stat: In ’91, though he had competed only twice in the long jump, Lewis was second at the world championships. He may be nursing a bruised ego after disappointing showings at the U.S. trials — he didn’t qualify in either the 100- or 200-meter events — but the defeats could stoke his competitive fire.
Style: Lewis, who has a Houston-based sports apparel company, says he’ll probably sport a ”no-hair” ‘do for the Olympics and says his biggest beef is the ”absolutely hideous” patriotic unitard of the U.S. track team.
Attitude: ”I’ll have to jump perfect to win.”
Residence: Alta Loma, Calif.
Number of olympics: Two
Number of medals: One (a silver in the long jump in ’88)
Motivation: Though Powell has officially jumped more than 29 feet only twice, he talks with assurance about 30 feet. ”I get excited weeks ahead when I know I’m jumping against Carl. I know it will bring out the best in me. He’s been a winner for so long, he’s used to it. He believes he’ll win. It’s something that I’ve picked up from him.”
Training: Practices every other day for four hours, including a warm-up in the pool, physical therapy, two hours at the track, and weight work.
Special pleasures: Dance music (recently a lot of Heavy D.) chess, Scrabble, bowling.
Nickname: Troubled takeoffs gave him the name Mike Foul (”I used to try and get every little bit of the board before takeoff; now I’m more relaxed”), but he prefers his musical moniker, DJ P Mikey Mike.
Attitude: ”(Winning would be) the exclamation point of my career. The big goal has always been Olympic gold in ’92.”
(286 pounds and up)
Alexander Karelin, Unified Team, vs. Matt Ghaffari, U.S.
Finals: July 28-29, 12:35-2:05 a.m.
Marquee value: Welcome to the land of giants in polyester lederhosen. Karelin’s known for whipping huge men over his back like towels. When these guys hit the mat, the earth will definitely move.
Karelin personals Age: 24
Height and weight: 6’3”, 290 pounds (birth weight: 15 pounds)
Residence: Novosibirsk, Siberia
Record: Karelin, known as Sasha, has never lost in international competition, took the gold in Seoul in ’88, and was world champion from ’88 through ’91.
Most dangerous weapon: A reverse body lift. “No one has ever ripped me right off the mat like that, like I was a rag doll,” says Jeff Blatnick, the 1984 gold medalist.
Power stat: Carried a new refrigerator up eight flights to his apartment.
On his opponent: Karelin has told Ghaffari he’s the only one near him in ability and he’s training just for their meeting.
Best asset: ”Genetically,” says Blatnick, ”he’s a stud.”
Height and weight: 6’4”, 286 pounds
Residence: Chandler, Ariz.
Record: Ghaffari, who also wrestles freestyle, took up Greco-Roman in ’89 and was the silver medalist at the ’91 world championships. He’s one of the few wrestlers ever to score against Karelin.
Training secret: Eats two 2-pound porterhouse steaks a day for a week before a competition.
Power stat: Can incline-press 365 pounds.
On his opponent: ”He’s my enemy. He wants to rip my heart out. How can you like somebody like that?”
Best asset: Karelin doesn’t scare him: ”He’s got to go through me to get the gold. I’m going to Barcelona to beat him up.”
Individual all-around competition, which takes the best overall score from the balance beam, uneven parallel bars, vault, and floor exercises
Svetlana Bogunskaya, Unified Team, vs. Kim Zmeskal, U.S.
Finals: July 30, 7:30-midnight
Marquee value: Think of it as the powerhouse vs. the princess, teen division. It’s American athleticism vs. Slavic grace — and Zmeskal plays to the crowd.
Height and weight: 5’3” (a relative Kareem Abdul-Jabbar among gymnasts), 90 pounds
Residence: Mensk, Byelarus
History: Won the all-around bronze in ’88 (also a gold for the vault and a silver for the floor exercises) and took the world championships in ’89, but then lost the ’91 worlds to Zmeskal.
Strengths: She has long, superlean lines and Old World balletic grace. Her choreographer, Dmitri Begak, was a former Bolshoi dancer. Plus, says Mary Lou Retton, ”She doesn’t make mistakes.”
Special pleasures: Nintendo’s Gameboy and science fiction novels
Attitude: A prima donna who very rarely breaks into a smile, Bogunskaya blamed American-biased judging when Zmeskal beat her in the ’91 world championships in Indianapolis. She also snubbed Zmeskal’s outstretched hand at the awards ceremony there, and later responded to American coach Bela Karolyi’s comment that ”her day is over,” by telling The New York Times, ”I don’t think Kim Zmeskal is that good of a gymnast to make my era come to an end.”
Height and weight: 4’7”, 80 pounds of tumbling dynamite
History: She began training at age 6. She’s a three-time U.S. National Champion and the only American to win the all-around at a world championship (’91)
Strengths: Zmeskal is powerful, explosive, and extremely athletic. ”She’s got a stomach of steel,” observes Retton. And she’s coached by Karolyi, who brought us both Retton and Romania’s Nadia Comaneci. She tends to win over the crowd during the floor exercises (which happens to be her favorite event) with a second tumbling run that includes a roundoff, three back flips (no hands), a back handspring, and a double back somersault.
Special pleasure: Days of Our Lives
Attitude: Zmeskal has said the world championship victory gives her confidence and an edge going into Barcelona. Former Karolyi protégée Retton says, ”Bela will have her ready. If I were in Vegas, I’d put my money on Kim.”
Swimming’s glitz event (or, as Tom Jager says, “an underwater drag race that’s all-out from the beginning”) Tom Jager, U.S., vs. Matt Biondi, U.S.
Finals: July 30, 7:30 p.m.-midnight
World record holder: Jager (21.18 seconds)
History: They met in ’83 when Biondi, then on a recruiting visit to UCLA, was shown around the campus by Jager. Biondi wound up going to UC-Berkeley, thus launching a Pac 10 rivalry. Since Biondi’s graduation in ’87, the two, who are friends, have been ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in the world, with Jager winning 15 of their 23 races. In ’90, they traded off one-upping each other, breaking the world record three times in one day — first Jager, then Biondi, then Jager — at the U.S. Sprint Championships.
Marquee value: Biondi has the ego, Jager the desire. The race will come down to who has more. A bonus: high aesthetic factor. These guys give Speedos new meaning.
Height and weight: 6’3”, 185 pounds
Number of olympics: Three
Number of medals: Five (two golds in ’84; two golds and a silver — in the 50-meter freestyle, to Biondi’s gold — in ’88)
Residence: Albuquerque, N.M.
Training regimen: An hour and a half of speed work, starts, and fine-tuning five days a week — plus a lot of basketball.
Attitude: ”There’s a revenge factor for me,” he says. ”I was the favorite going into the Olympics in 1988, and he took the record from me. I consider it 1-0, Matt.”
Height and weight: 6’7”, 210 pounds
Number of olympics: Three
Number of medals: Eight (one gold in ’84; five golds, one silver, and one bronze in ’88)
Residence: Castro Valley, Calif.
Training regimen: Biondi joins the Berkeley swim team for workouts six days a week. He also takes hour-long uphill runs four mornings a week while breathing through a snorkel and accompanied by his black Lab, Maya.
Attitude: Biondi thinks his size and rigorous training may give him the edge. In any case, he says, ”I have nothing to prove.”
Road race: one day, 50 miles, 50-plus riders
Inga Thompson, U.S., vs. Leontien Van Moorsel, the Netherlands
Finals: July 26, 7 p.m.-midnight
History: Thompson finished second to Van Moorsel at the ’91 world championships but beat her in two races since then. ”Last year Leontien was the strongest rider,” she says, ”but I was right on her heels, which showed at the worlds.”
Marquee value: Two equally determined pedal-pushers with quads to die for: a natural woman (Thompson) and a makeup maven (Van Moorsel) who enjoy themselves even while they’re in pain.
Height and weight: 5’10”, 135 pounds
Number of olympics: Three
History: Thompson, a middle-distance runner in college, switched to cycling when she developed arthritis in her ankles. After only two months of training, she made the ’84 Olympic team, finishing 21st in Los Angeles and 8th in Seoul.
Special pleasures: Gardening, Harleys, horses, and boyfriend Matt Newberry’s ”cowboy cookies” (a westernized version of the Toll-House variety)
Trademark look: A long, blond braid (it’s the most recognizable feature in a likeness of Thompson painted on a Reno slot machine).
Attitude: ”For the first time, I really have a lot of confidence.” Nine months of training with a men’s team in Chaunay, France, added to her assurance.
Van Moorsel personals
Height and weight: 5’5”, 110 pounds
Residence: Boekel, the Netherlands
Number of olympics: This is her first.
History: Began cycling at 8, following in the footsteps of big brother Jan, a former amateur racer. In ’90, she won the world championships in pursuit (track racing), but the flu forced her to drop out of the road race. The following year she was a healthy victor on the road.
Special pleasure: Shopping
Trademark look: Mascara, blush, pink lipstick, earrings. Says Thompson: ”She’s really pretty and really dangerous.” Van Moorsel did a G-rated spread for the Dutch edition of Penthouse but turned down Playboy.
Attitude: She keeps getting leaner and hungrier. In the last two years, she has lost 55 pounds and won 78 races. Her ’92 goal: ”To win everything.”
How Would You Do?
You with the highly coordinated remote control — ever wonder how you’d fare in the Olympics? We asked the experts how the average 30-year-old would measure up. To find your proper place in the athletic food chain, see below.
Event: Swim 50 m
Average male: 35 sec.
Average female: 42 sec.
Olympic male: 22.14 sec.
Olympic Female: 25.49 sec.
Event: Swim 400 m
Average male: 10-12 min.
Average female: 10-12 min.
Olympic male: 3.46.95 min
Olympic Female: 4.03.85 min
Event: Run 100 m
Average male: 13-14 sec.
Average female:15-16 sec.
Olympic male: 9.92 sec.
Olympic Female: 10.62 sec.
Event: Run 1,500 m
Average male: 8 min.
Average female: 9 min.
Olympic male: 3.32.5 min.
Olympic Female: 3.53.26 min.
Event: Body fat
Average male: 18-23%
Average female: 20-26%
Olympic male: 3-15%
Olympic Female: 8-15%
Event: Baseball throw
Average male: 70 mph
Average female: 55 mph
Olympic male: 90-95 mph
Olympic Female: NA
Event: Vertical jump
Average male: 22-26 in.
Average female: 20-24 in.
Olympic male: 48 in. (Michael Jordan)
Olympic Female: NA
Event: Long jump
Average male: 15-17 ft.
Average female: 11-14 ft.
Olympic male: 29.02.5 ft.
Olympic Female: 24.03.5 ft.
All of a sudden Gail Devers couldn’t run. The troubles began during the semifinal of the 100-meter hurdles at Seoul in ’88 when she clocked a dismal 13.60. ”It was almost a relief,” she says. ”I couldn’t compete.” Over the next two years Devers suffered migraines, blurred vision, hair loss, and weight fluctuations of 40 pounds. At 21, Devers told her coach, Bobby Kersee, she felt washed up and wanted to quit.
In September ’90, doctors found the problem: advanced Graves’ disease. Radiation treatments for the thyroid disorder burned and blistered her feet so badly that by March ’91, she couldn’t walk across a room and doctors told her they might have to amputate her feet. It took a month under what she calls ”house arrest” — her toes didn’t hit the carpet — for her feet to heal. (The Graves’, though not curable, is controlled through medication.) At first, all she could do was pedal a stationary bike. But now she’s living up to the strength (she can squat-lift 320 pounds) and explosiveness (”I’m good for bumping into hurdles”) of her nickname: ”Bam-Bam!”
At the U.S. trials, Devers set a meet record (12.55 seconds) in the 100-meter hurdles and finished second in the 100 meters, making her the first American woman to qualify in both events. ”I’m definitely thinking about gold,” says the 25-year-old Californian, who plans her day around I Love Lucy reruns.
But mainly she’s glad to be back on track: ”Before, I kind of took my ability for granted. Now I give thanks every day that I can stand.”
The Stuff of Dreams
Magic Johnson. Larry Bird. Michael Jordan. Clyde Drexler. Charles Barkley. Patrick Ewing. Chris Mullin. Scottie Pippen. Karl Malone. John Stockton. David Robinson. Christian Laettner. Twelve players, five starters, no salary cap. Just a short list of the most overwhelming full-court athletes in Olympic history — the slammingest, jammingest, swishingest, dishingest, most electrifying guys ever to take a roundball to the hoop. And we’ve got their numbers:
Tallest: Robinson, 7’1”
Shortest: Stockton, 6’1”
Highest paid in NBA last season: Bird, $7,070,000
Heaviest: Malone (256 pounds)
Biggest shoe size: Size 16 (Barkley, Robinson, and Malone)
Youngest: Laettner (22)
Oldest: Bird (35)
Number of guys who’ve already earned basketball gold medals: Three (Ewing, Mullin, and Jordan)
Most MVP awards won: Three (each by Bird, Johnson, and Jordan)
Most NBA championships won: Five (by Johnson)
Number of guys to win an NCAA, an NBA, and an Olympic championship: One (Jordan)
Longest middle name: Eight letters, Patrick Aloysius Ewing
Most NBA career points: Bird (21,791)
Number of guys with no hair: Two (Jordan and Barkley)
Just call it the Love Track. Since 1960, three husband-and-wife teams have competed for the U.S. in Olympic track and field, and this year two more couples will try to snare the gold ring at Barcelona.
Sandra Farmer-Patrick, 29, and David Patrick, 32
Her event: 400-meter hurdles
His event: 400-meter hurdles
Residence: Pflugerville, Tex.
Family history: As newlyweds in ’88, these two experienced a nightmare Olympic trials. David finished a frustrating fourth, .03 seconds away from a trip to Seoul, and Sandra was disqualified in her semifinal for running in the wrong lane.
Shelly Steely, 29, and Aaron Ramirez, 27
Her event: 3,000 meters His event: 10,000 meters
Residence: Albuquerque, N.M.
Family history: They met at the 1989 World Cross Country Championships in Norway, when a flush Shelly ended up buying beers for a financially strapped contingent from the U.S. men’s team, including Aaron. They exchanged vows in September of ’91. It’s the first Olympics for both.