Scholz, 28, learned to appreciate that winning feeling early in life. The nature-loving son of a Fairfield, Conn. truck driver and a kindergarten teacher, he began carving birds at 12, but spent his high school and Central Connecticut State College days taking top honors in a more physical arena—decathlon championships. After a badly pulled hamstring put him out of contention for the 1984 Olympic trials, he moved to Vermont and concentrated on improving his sculpting technique. His first entry in the U.S. National Decoy Show won a blue ribbon and convinced Floyd that he had found his calling.
Now living alone in a 13-room farmhouse, which, he says, "the birds bought for me," Scholz logs hundreds of hours of research, sketching, carving and painting for each piece. That leaves little time for social life, but Scholz is confident that his best friends won't always be feathered. "I know I'll have a family someday, and that will be the most important thing in my life," he says. "For now, it's like I'm building the nest."
Genna Weiss, 14, has surely been eating her Wheaties. A two-time winner of the Junior National Diving Championship and 1985's Junior World Diving champ, she qualified last year for the Senior Nationals in platform diving, probably the youngest to do so since the 1940s. Now ranked 14th in the Senior Nationals, Weiss seems a sure shot for the 1988 Olympic team.
The daughter of gymnasts—Greg Weiss was on the 1964 Olympic team and his wife, Margie Sims, was a member of the U.S. team five years later—Genna grew up with hands-on training. Her parents coach gymnastics out of their Sandy Spring, Md. home, which is equipped with a gym and a pool. Genna somersaulted, twisted and tumbled early on, and she took her first steps on a balance beam. After doing flips off a springboard, she switched to diving at age 6. Her defection seems to have been contagious: Both Genna's brother, Michael, 9, and sister, Geremi, 12, have forsaken gymnastics, in their case for ice-skating.
An eighth grader, Genna practices six days a week and takes half a day off from school twice a week to train with her coach, John Wolsh, on the Naval Academy's 10-meter platform. "Sometimes I get real tired of the whole thing and just break down and cry," she admits. But after a break, her commitment returns. "Diving is my life," she says. "I was born with this ability, and I have an obligation to use it."
Everyone knows what a bird in hand is usually worth, but a bird in Floyd Scholz's talented hands is worth much more. For the past four years his anatomically exact "avian sculptures," as he calls them, painstakingly carved and painted in his Hancock, Vt. studio, have been fetching blue ribbons at national bird-carving shows and selling for up to $32,000 apiece.