The Winter Olympics are over, but it seems increasingly certain that, come July, it will be the country's summer Olympians who will be left out in the cold.
Many summer athletes and coaches support President Carter's call for a boycott of the Moscow Games because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Still others are angry because they have been branded by some as unpatriotic for wanting a crack at the glory their winter counterparts experienced for themselves and the nation.
Meeting with members of the Winter Olympic team on Monday, Carter said he would consult with their summer counterparts about alternative world class competitions in this country or spread around the globe -- an idea that gets mixed reactions from the athletes.
In the meantime, some athletes say, there is an "ugly stepsister" tag being applied to those who oppose the boycott.
"Please don't write about our 'sacrifices,' don't put that word in your article," pleaded Laurel Brassey, 26, one of 14 players on the women's volleyball team that has spent the last two years at training camp in Colorado Springs. "The public is sick of hearing about our sacrifices, what we've given up to train here -- school, marriage and a social life, but it's something we wanted to do. We want to be able to go over there and do what we've trained to do."
The national exuberance over the U.S. hockey team's gold medal, Brassey said, "has really made me feel there's hope we'll get our chance to go over there and do the same thing.
"We're hoping public opinion will change and the administration will realize that a boycott will not have any effect on the Russians. It's a fruitless effort . . . . I'm disappointed in the government and I don't like being a martyr."
Teammate Debbie Green, who has trained seven years to make the squad, said, "It's not up to me anymore. It's in the hands of people who have no idea what we're going through. The athletes at the Winter Games get all the praise for their work and now, just because our games are in Moscow, we're accused of being un-Americans."
Their coach, Arie Selinger, remarked, "This is not a matter of the 'Summer Guys' versus the 'Winter Guys.' Some people do look on the winter athletes as heroes while the athletes in the Summer Games come out negative -- that they're not willing to sacrifice, they're not patriotic, etc."
Dick Mulvihill, who coaches two of the country's top gymnasts -- Tracee Talavera and Leslie Pyfer -- is also miffed. "These kids have been working four years. They've been living away from home and their parents have had a lot of expenses involved. I know parents who have practically sold their furniture to keep the kids in training and there is nothing like Olympics, nothing!
"I feel the administration is using this as a political thing, that the American public is paying for the mistakes made by the administration relative to letting our defenses down . . . .
"A (boycott) would be fine if it were equitable all around. But businessmen are still selling things to the Russians and making money. We still have cultural and athletic exchanges going on right now. Why isn't that stopped?"
Like most athletes, Talavera still hopes Americans will participate. "I'm glad they had the Winter Games for the athletes," the 13-year-old said. ""But I never thought it would come to this (a boycott of the Summer Games)."
The USOC has until May 24 to declare its entry for the Moscow Games, but all indications are that it will back Carter's call for a boycott. gSo, in the meantime, the athletes continue to prepare for regularly scheduled competitions and await word on a possible substitute Olympics this summer.
"'Free World Games' would be better than nothing, but anything we have would be secondary to the Olympics. There's nothing comparable," said Kurt Thomas, one of the country's premier gymnasts and three-time world champion.
"Obviously, I've trained my whole life for this competition," Thomas continued, "but if it's in the best interest of the country, I guess we've got to go ahead with it (a boycott)."
"There's nothing than can replace the Olympics," said Jimmy Carnes, coach of the men's track and field team. "That's where the real showplace is going to be because everybody watches.
"I'd be in favor of a superinternational competition for track and field and all the other sports, too, although I can't speak for them. But we'd need television exposure and financial assistance to help develop the (sports) programs."
Andy Weaver, a member of the gold medalist American cycling team at last summer's Pan American Games, has ridden 3,000 miles since January in preparation for the Olympics.
"Personally, I'm for a boycott, but I really feel ripped off," said Weaver, an architecture student who takes off the spring semesters to train. "Last year, when I was really into a design course and thinking of not training that semester, a professor convinced me that school would be here forever, but my chances for the Olympics wouldn't.
"Alternate games would be still a bum rap because there's nothing like the Olympics."
Tom Stock, a superheavyweight at 307 pounds, has been the national weightlifting champion twice and won three gold medals at the Pan American Games last summer. He is ranked among the top five in the world.
"I'm prepared to live with whatever side of the coin comes up in the flip," Stock said. "It seems, though, that the summer athletes are in the right place (competitively) at the wrong time.
"The athletes are taking the brunt of this and there's no stronger group nationally which enjoys being American -- waving the flag and shouting, 'America First'
"I think Americans have finally caught Olympic fever as a result of the Winter Games -- and it's very catchy because it's nationalistic and in these trying times people look for something to bring us together.
"I have to ask, 'Do we know the consequences of what we're doing?' Hopefully, history won't prove us wrong."