Fast Cars and Strong Women: for Six Young Athletes, Their Best Is Very Close to Great
•What's happened to the postwar baby boom
•Celebs critique their own physiques
•A surprising group of military brats
Hana Mandlikova has come of age. The onetime ball girl for Martina Navratilova reached at least the semifinals of every tennis tournament she entered, and although she lost a celebrated three-set final to Chris Evert Lloyd at the U.S. Open, since then she has won steadily—including the Australian Open. Her season earnings now total more than $200,000. The fleet-footed 18-year-old Czech inherits her speed from her father, Vilem, a sprinter in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics. She now has her own apartment in Prague, and her immediate goal is simple: "I want to be No. 1 in the world." (She's currently No. 5.)
He's a winner, like his prime minister mother, but Britain's Mark Thatcher isn't always in complete control. He spun out at 190 mph at Le Mans last June, damaging his race car. Still, Thatcher, 26, has won saloon car events and for the season ahead plans a full racing schedule in Formula Atlantic competition (a step below Grand Prix). Being the son of the prime minister has gotten him sponsorship, but "it doesn't always help," Mark says. "At night in the rain, Mum can't fix it if the brakes fail."
Kayaking may not make big waves in the sports world, but it does in Cathy Hearn's. In 1979 she won three gold medals at the world championships in Canada. Last summer the Garrett Park, Md. 22-year-old became national champ in the wild-water event. Cathy has been shooting rapids since she was 9. A Hampshire College junior, she plans to skip spring semester to train for this summer's world championships in Wales. "I have a ways to go before I peak," she figures. "Until then, kayaking is my life."
He's King Albert to University of Maryland fans. In 1977 Albert King was the most actively recruited high school basketball player in the country. After two disappointing college seasons, the 6'6" forward finally lived up to his notices. An All-America, he led the Terrapins to the Atlantic Coast Conference title, scoring 21.7 points per game. He turned down more than $1.5 million to turn pro (brother Bernard plays for Golden State). "I'm selfish," says Albert, 21. "I'm having too good a time." Marvels Maryland coach Lefty Driesell of the radio and television major: "He hasn't even reached his potential."
Player of the Year in 1980, Beth Daniel had long been hailed as "the next Nancy Lopez." After winning four LPGA tournaments this year and eclipsing Nancy's single-season earnings record (with $230,000), it may be time to start looking for "the next Beth Daniel." The long-hitting Charleston, S.C. native, who is 5'10" and 130 pounds, has been winning tournaments since she was 6. She took the U.S. Amateur twice and was the LPGA's top rookie in 1979. Her goal for next year is to win a major championship like the National Open. "I hope I don't look back," says 24-year-old Beth, "and say 1980 was the best I could do."
Quarterback Neil Lomax of Portland (Oreg.) State is the most successful passer in college football. He holds 16 NCAA records, including most touchdown passes (106) and total yardage (almost eight miles). Dallas Cowboys scout Gil Brandt thinks the 6'3", 215-pound prospect from nearby Lake Oswego may be the first quarterback chosen in April's NFL draft. A communications major, Lomax, 21, simply hopes he'll be picked by "a team that lives on the pass."