Jon Lugbill treated a Prospect Lake headwind with as little concern as he extended his competition today, collecting three gold medals in canoeing competition at the National Sports Festival.
Victories in junior singles and fours, plus senior fours, marked the beginning of Lugbill's campaign for an Olympic berth in flatwater canoeing, which is not his idea of fun on the water.
Lubgill, a recent graduate of Oakton High in Fairfax, Va., is the world senior champion in whitewater canoeing. Unfortunately for both him and television viewers, that exciting event is not part of the 1980 Olympic program.
"The '72 Olympics stimulated the whole sport," Lugbill said. "But then in '76 they really blew it when it wasn't in the Olympics. I think whitewater will grow on its own, though.
"Where we raced in the World Championships in Quebec, there were 10,000-15,000 people watching and you couldn't even get down to the river. I could only get to watch my friends in the easier sections, but it was shown live on Canadian TV."
Lugbill took up canoeing for recreation in 1972, then began competing seriously in 1974. He made his first U.S. team in 1975, traveling to Yugoslavia as a wide-eyed 14-year-old.
"I always liked sports, playing football, basketball, baseball and soccer - the whole bit," Lugbill said. "But they were all team sports and it was hard to get people to play every day. Canoeing was my first individual sport. All you had to do was get a paddle and go out on a pond."
Lugbill will enter the University of Tampa in the fall and plans to train hard, lifting weights and paddling on the Hillsborough River.
"I hope to do a little whitewater, but basically I'll have to work hard at flatwater, if I expect to have a chance to make the Olympic team. Whitewater is all technique, but this is a lot of grind. That's why it's not as popular, but the number of people in the sport has doubled, because it is an Olympic sport and with the few people competing there's a real chance to make the Olympic team."
Lugbill considers his Olympic possibilities to be "not very good," but his competitors are more optimistic.
"He's just so strong it's incredible," said New Yorker Larry Atkinson, third in the junior singles. "I was psyched out before I left the starting line."
Good training facilities and the presence of Coach Bill Endicott have made Washington the kayak-canoeing capital of the U.S. and Lugbill was not alone in accepting gold today.
Theresa DiMarino of Alexandria, Va., and Nancy Leahy of Camp Springs, Md., breezed to an openwater victory in the women's kayak doubles.
Cathy Hearn of Garrett Park, Md., a triple gold medalist in the world whitewater competition, earned a gold by joining three younger women in a junior kayak fours success. Juniors are 18 and under, but Hearn, 21, was recruited to fill out the boat.
Lugbill also was recruited for the senior four because they were shorthanded and proved he could compete with his elders. CAPTION: Picture, Lisa-Marie Allen, 18, wins women's figure skating championship. AP