Tim Daggett majored in psychology at UCLA and last year made about 75 speeches or personal appearances. Much of what he said was intended to motivate high school students, aspiring gymnasts and business people more than twice his age, which is 23.
"It's easier to see success in sports than in other fields, but being successful is the same in any field," said Daggett, the youngest member of the U.S. men's gymnastics team that won the Olympic gold medal in Los Angeles. Individually, he won a bronze medal in the pommel horse.
He was practicing yesterday at George Mason's Patriot Center for this weekend's American Cup competition.
"The thing is," he said afterward, "is that it's no harder for you than it is for anybody else. For me, even people who saw me struggle, forgot. They said, 'Oh, it's easy for Daggett, he has talent.' But I had surgery on my right ankle and then dislocated my left ankle in 1981 . They forget about all the hard work. But everyone who makes it has had to overcome obstacles. It's learning to deal with them: going over them, around them or through them."
He was the captain of the U.S. men's team in the world championships in Montreal. The Americans finished a disappointing ninth as a team, and Daggett was 25th in the all-around.
"It was terrible," he said. "I had a terrible competition. And being captain was a new role for me. On the '84 team, we knew each other and worked well together, so, when we got to competitions, it was a lot less scary. At the last world championships, I felt like I should be sort of a leader. I was scared to death at my first world championship. There were some inexperienced guys, and I thought it was my responsibility to try to calm them down. I think it took away from my concentration, and then, when Dan Hayden got hurt, we were really in tough shape."
Because he is only 23, Daggett plans to be in Seoul for the 1988 Olympics. He would be one of the few holdovers from 1984. "It's a new generation, whether you like it or not," said Bela Karolyi, who coached Mary Lou Retton and now guides 13-year-old Kristi Phillips, who will compete this weekend.
Daggett points out that U.S. teams weren't especially scintillating in 1981, yet were just fine by 1984. To make that cycle repeat, according to Daggett, there have to be a few changes, some tangible, others more abstract.
"We've got to work on that," Daggett said when asked if the present team resembles the '84 team. "Desire is the most important thing for success. It's Friday at 5:30 and you've done a hundred routines that week. It's tough to go to the high bar and be aggressive. You have to have a burning desire, sort of the eye of the tiger."
Most of the 1984 team members had worked together in groups, either at UCLA or Nebraska. It helped in the long run, Daggett said. He isn't sure that having everyone spread out, doing individual training, is such a hot idea.
"There were days when I was tired, asking myself what the heck I was doing," he said of his training. "Then I'd look over and see Mitch Gaylord busting his butt and sticking a routine. Then I'd say, 'What am I complaining about?' The next day, Mitch might be dragging, and he'd look at me and it helped him.
"Here [in the United States], when people say they're getting together to train, they mean for a couple days, but we need to develop athletes. In big-league ball, that's all there is to it. It's just like in business. If you don't have the facilities -- computers or whatever -- and the people to do it, you're not going to compete with IBM. And at this point we don't have them."