Wally Dicks sat on the side of a swimming pool near his Great Falls home the other day, longing to plunge into the water one minute, and the next minute grateful that the pool is off-limits for the next two weeks.
These two weeks are a self-imposed break for the 18-year-old swimmer, who normally puts in five hours a day of swimming and weight lifting, and claims he feels more comfortable in water than on land.
Just before taking his annual rest, the grueling hours of training paid off when Dicks led the U.S. Junior National Swim Team in a smashing defeat of Russian swimmers at the Junior Dual Meet two weeks ago in Milwaukee.
The 36-member American team, which included Dicks as captain, 15-year-old Susan O'Brien of Fairfax County and local swim coach Holger Dietze as one of the coaches, clobbered the Russians 212-132 in the first contest involving some of the probable swimmers in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
"This is so important to us because we had thought for awhile the Russians would be the power in '84," said Dietze, coach at Starlit Aquatic Club in Fairfax County.
As many as 40 percent of the young swimmers on the junior national team, who were selected based on their performance in their age groups during U.S. Swimming Nationals in August, will be named to the 1984 Olympic team, Dietze predicted. And he counts Dicks and O'Brien among those candidates.
"They both have the speed and the physical talent necessary to be top Olympic contenders, although neither one of them has reached their peak or their maturity yet," Dietze said.
At the Milwaukee competition, Dicks, who is ranked 12th in the nation for the breast stroke, broke his own record for the 100-meter breast stroke, finishing in 1 minute, 5.7 seconds, and the 200-meter breaststroke, coming in at 2:24.4.
O'Brien, who was chosen for the national team because she was the second fastest 15-year-old female backstroker in the U.S. championships, came in last in her face-off with the Soviets. She blames her loss on a lapse in training last winter, but plans to begin intensive workouts this fall with an eye toward the World Games in Ecuador next summer.
Both Fairfax County youngsters said they got a patriotic charge out of the Junior Dual Meet, along with a taste of top-level international competition.
"I felt like I conquered something for the USA," said Dicks, who was elected captain by his teammates. "In swimming, the Russians are the best there is. But we did better."
Despite the competitive spirit and a language barrier, the Americans said they enjoyed meeting their Russian counterparts, even if their friendships were limited to hand signals and exchanging gifts.
"In a way they're so different. But you're so alike in the pool. You're all there for the same purpose -- to win," Dicks said.
Once the new season begins, O'Brien will be swimming with the Starlit swim team. Dicks, who graduated in June from Langley High School, where he earned an All-American high school swimming title, will swim at the University of Tennessee, where he won a four-year scholarship in swimming.
Before college competition starts, however, Dicks said he needs to put 25 pounds on his 6-foot-3, 155-pound frame. To do that, he is running a few miles a day during his swimming break and will start a weight-lifting regimen when school begins, all with the single-minded goal of making the Olympic team.
"My coach feels if you get a lot more strength on me, there's no holding me back," Dicks said.