Kate (The Great) Schmidt set the world record in the javelin throw three months ago and decided she had achieved complete fulfillment in life. Now two weeks short of her 24th birthday she has conceded there may be a few worthwhile experiences left.
"After I got the record, I didn't care if the plane crashed on the way home," Schmidt said. "I felt totally fulfilled with life. I'd been in love before, I'd traveled all over, I'd had great times with my friends and my family and now I had the world record. I finally did something I knew I could do but hadn't done."
Schmidt's throw of 227 feet 5 inches came Sept. 11 at Furth, West Germany, in the 19th competition of a three-month European tour. She became the first American woman to hold a world track and field record since Wyomia Tyus bested the 100-meter mark, long since eclipsed, in 1968.
"It changed me for some reason," Schmidt said. "I'm happier with myself. I did very well in school and I did a lot of things I never cared about before. I stopped eating meat and lost a lot of weight, but I still feel energetic. I quit smoking. The world record had always been my goal, but now I think an Olympic gold medal might be nice, too."
Schmidt, 6-1 and 163 pounds (down from 180 at Montreal), has always been a nonconformist, doing things her way and enjoying life to the fullest Her individuality has now taken the form of contempt for the Sullivan Award, presented to America's top amateur athlete.
Schmidt is a nominee, and a deserving one, but she says she won't accept the trophy if she wins and adds that "even if I get the most votes, the AAU probably will find a way not to name me the winner."
"The Sullivan Award is nonsense," Schmidt said. "There are no consistent criteria for selection. And the public should know about what it's like to be an amateur athlete and the problems connected with the AAU.
"Just to throw the javelin, I can't take money for coaching, writing magazine articles, making public appearances, doing radio-TV shows. To me, it's unconstitutional. I don't see why, because you're dedicated to athletics, you have to turn other things down. It's a very emotional thing with me. This is the first time in my life I followed through with a gut principle."
Don't infer that Schmidt is pinned down by a javelin 24 hours a day. As a member of the Pacific Coast Club, she roams from Paris to Tahiti. After she graduates from Long Beach State later this month with a radio-television broadcasting degree, she will head for the Superstars competition in the Bahamas, with a brief stop in College Park, Md., to watch the National Invitational indoor meet Jan. 13.
Schmidt has been a world-class javelin competitor since she was 16 and coaches the world over have been drooling about her potential in the event.
She took the bronze at both Munich and Montreal, then finished a struggling fourth in the World's Cup a week before her record throw. In all three, she admittedly was psyched out by the presence of East Germany's Ruth Fuchs, whose world record she erased.
"I gave up trying to beat Fuchs," Schmidt said. "She is the only person who has had my number. No matter what shape she's in or even if she's injured, we both knew she'd win. So I gave up.
"I hate track meets of that magnitude. They're just a circus for the public, not the athletes. At the World Cup you had the waiting before, the tests afterward, and reporters milling around the hotel.
"In Montreal there were 12 of us in one room, each trying to prepare for the biggest day of her life. It was impossible. I like fun things, like the French championships in Navarre, where the athletes mingled on the field and you weren't bothered by steroid tests and sex tests."
Her rivarly with Fuchs, although one-sided (now 5-0), has been both insight into Iron Curtan life and amusement.
"About the only exchange we used to have was when I'd walk up and ask, 'Did you take your steriods?' And she felt a little flustered but seemingly didn't understand," Schmidt said. "Then Jane Frederick told me she'd talk with Ruth and Ruth wondered if maybe I didn't like her. I laughed at that.
"At Montreal, she was standing with Maria Betancourt of Cuba and I walked up and introduced myself, and she just turned and walked away. The pressure on the East German athletes is amazing. With Ruth, it was win the World Cup or go to Siberia. She was pale and she couldn't relax.
"But after Navarre, I asked her, 'What are you doing after the meet?' and she started prancing like a horse and making noises. It turned out she was going horseback riding."
Schmidt, shoes off, provided a demonstration, bouncing up and down in the lobby of the Los Angeles Marriott while she attracted a curious audience almost as large as those who frequent women's track meets.
"Track and field is a minor sport and the women's javelin is at the bottom rung, Schmidt said. "I'm not in for it for attention. I've always known I wouldn't get attention. I do it for my own satisfaction, and I like it.
"I'm lucky I have natural ability - a quick arm - because I wouldn't have worked hard at it waiting it develop. I was playing softball as a kid and one of my coaches noted my quick arm and told me to do something with it besides throw a softball. She happened to have a couple of javelins and I was an immediate success.
"European coaches think my technique is awful and I guess just about everybody finds something wrong with it, but now I can say, 'I'm the world record holder.'
"The Europeans claim I can throw 240 or 260, but I'm not willing to be a borderline female and throw 10 hours a day. It's tedious and a chore for many European athletes. When it's tedious and a chore for me, I'll quit
"I do work hard, but I stop when it becomes an obsession. I want to diversify my life, be a normal female person. I can't survive on 100 per cent jocketteism."