10/08/1979 at 01:00 AM EDT
Donna Ferra got into serious gymnastics late—at 11—but caught up so fast that at 13 she placed eighth overall in the 1978 AAU Junior Olympics. Her next major triumph was acceptance into the American Gold Elite Team, the dozen crack prospects coach Muriel Grossfeld is prepping for the U.S. Olympic squad. It all started for Donna when a friend back home in North Smithfield, R.I. showed her how to do cartwheels. After that she almost never stopped practicing acrobatics. "It even got so she'd be eating upside down," recalls her mother. The "Pretty Pretzel," as one local paper dubbed her, was first trained by gymnastics coach Bob Hanscom and followed him to the Muriel Grossfeld School of Gymnastics in Milford, Conn. when he became executive director. (Her father, a salvage auto parts executive and champion archer, has subsidized her dream at a cost already of $10,000.) At 14, Donna is at the minimum age for the Olympics and concedes she might not make the final seven on the U.S. team at Moscow next summer. But she'll be reckoned with in 1984. Says coach Hanscom: "The odds are always astronomical against reaching Olympic Gold, but Donna has that motivation."
Victor Caraballo, 27, founded his own New York fashion firm last year after apprenticing with Halston and Givenchy—"my maestros." Already his designs are appearing from Bergdorf Goodman to Neiman-Marcus. In addition to his $110-to-$1,000 off-the-rack line, Caraballo does couture for clients like Altovise Davis (Mrs. Sammy Jr.) and model Cristina Ferrare (above). He finds inspiration, he says, everywhere, from the exotica at Studio 54 to the manta ray of his Puerto Rican heritage (whence Ferrare's caftan). Son of a carpenter, Victor won a scholarship to San Juan's Wesleyan Academy and to "look proper" stitched permanent creases in the trousers of his uniform. Though Caraballo never wanted to be anything but a designer, he entered the University of Puerto Rico (at 15) to major in English. The day after completing his studies he flew to New York with 35¢ in his pocket and slept in the streets for three nights. Eventually he lucked into an assistant's job with Halston. A subsequent three-month stint with Givenchy in Paris taught him, says Victor, "the difference between chic and elegance." Desolate over the death of his father last year, Caraballo poured himself into his work, and created an entire spring collection in nine days. Halston, magnanimously and proudly, not only forecasts commercial success for his protégé but adds: "I'm confident Victor will make a fashion statement."