The marching music was rising and the 30 men competing in tonight's Goodwill Games all-round gymnastics final were parading toward their stations. Tim Daggett, arms folded, face somber, stood in a runway, watching.
Seeing him standing there, Yuri Titov, president of the International Gymnastics Federation, walked up, hands outstretched. "Why are you not out there?" he asked Daggett. "Always, I see you out there winning."
Daggett grinned forlornly at Titov. "Ne khorosho," he said in Russian -- "Not good enough."
"Next time for sure, though," Titov said.
"I sure hope so," Daggett replied.
Standing there this evening in the vast Olympic Indoor Stadium, watching three young teammates going off to take on the world, Daggett symbolized American gymnastics circa 1986. He is the link to the glorious past, the 1984 Olympic team gold medal in Los Angeles and the glamor that has followed the members of that team.
But he is also the leader of a team that is now being overwhelmed by the rest of the world. Sunday, with Daggett falling three times in what he called the worst performance of his career, the Americans finished fifth in the team competition. Tonight, with Soviets placing one-two-three, the top U.S. finisher was Charles Lakes, who was seventh. Philip Cahoy was 13th and Dennis Hayden 21st.
"It's a vicious circle," Daggett said, talking about himself and American gymnastics. "We aren't like track and field guys who can train their butts off and go to an event and know they're going to make a certain amount of money. We have to train our butts off, do well in a major event and then go and promote ourselves. And while we're doing that, while we're making money, we're out of the gym and not training.
"By the time Seoul is over, I'll be almost 27. I've never had a real job. I've never even worked in Wendy's. So there I am walking into some corporation and they say, 'You're 27, what have you done before this.' And I say, 'Well, nothing, I was an athlete.' It's tough to think about starting with zero at age 27. I need to make some money now. But I also need to train."
That is the way it always will be for American gymnasts. The only way to make a steady living is to retire. Bart Conner wrote a book and got into television after 1984. Mitch Gaylord is now a movie star. Peter Vidmar is doing television. Mary Lou Retton has cashed in for huge dollars but is so out of shape her chances of ever competing seriously again are almost zero.
Among the heroes of '84, only Daggett is still competing. And, as his 31st-place finish here indicates, he is struggling. That leaves it to people like Lakes, a 21-year-old senior at Illinois; Hayden and his twin brother Dan, who are planning to take most of the next two years off to prepare for the Olympics; Brian Ginsberg, who hurt an ankle earlier in the year and was not here, and veterans who did not make the '84 team like Brian Babcock and Cahoy.
They are all eager and improving. They also have a way to go. "I came here looking for some consistency," said Lakes, who moved up three places tonight with a solid performance, especially in the floor exercise where he scored 9.70. "To do well internationally, you have to get the judges to notice you. I think I did that here.
"We're in the same boat as the 1981 team was and they went on and did what they did in 1984. It will take a lot of hard work, but I think by the time we get to Seoul we'll be able to compete with the Russians. I can definitely see that happening."
That would be quite a turnaround. Not only did the Soviets go one-two-three 1-2-3 here, their No. 4 man, fourth after the preliminaries, could not advance because rules prevent more than three athletes from one country from advancing. What's more, Jurij Balaboniv, who might have won here, hurt a knee Sunday night and former world champion Emitri Belozerchev broke a leg earlier this year in an automobile accident.
"They're unbelievable athletes," Daggett said. "I watch them and I marvel at what they do. They spend all those hours in the gym and it shows. It's very hard to be an amateur in a professional league. But that's the way it's always been for American gymnasts and I don't know how it will ever change."
His coach at UCLA, Yefim Bisher, who grew up in the Soviet Union, sees Daggett's problem and the entire country's problem as being one of continuity. "In the Soviet Union when a gymnast finishes his career, he or she stays in gymnastics in some way," Bisher said. "In the States, it isn't so. They get out to make money, which is understandable. If Tim weren't competing, he could make a lot of money right now."
True, said Daggett. "I can't tell you how much money I turned down to compete in the world championships last year," he said. "But the problem is people want to pay you for speaking to their Rotary Club or holding a clinic or giving a talk. They don't want to take some money and just put it into gymnastics and say, 'Go do it again, guys.'
"I find myself rationalizing, thinking I can train at a clinic or something. Well, you can't train with 300 little kids running around under the high bar. I have to go home and reevaluate now. I won't go through a meet like this ever again."
But other American gymnasts may. The women, who begin competition Wednesday, don't even have a Daggett-equivalent, a remnant of '84 to look to. For now, the U.S. men can only hope that they improve vastly between now and the world championships next year.
Soviet wrestlers proved tonight that U.S. Coach Dan Gable was correct when he said his team was not ready for them at this point.
Soviets won seven of the 10 individual wrestling golds, winning five of seven U.S.-U.S.S.R. matchups. The other three gold medals went to Americans -- John Smith (136 pounds), Dave Schultz (163) and Bruce Baumgartner (heavyweight).