Relay gold caps Nall's Olympiad Towson teen yearns for malls, movies BARCELONA '92

July 31, 1992|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

BARCELONA, Spain -- Anita Nall wants her driver's license.

She wants to hang around malls and eat dinner with her family. She can't wait to wear big T-shirts and wool socks. Go see a few horror movies. Take a real vacation.

Anita Nall wants to be a teen-ager again.

"It's been a hectic week, and I'm kind of glad it's over," said Nall, the 16-year-old swimmer from Towson. She closed her Olympic competition yesterday with a gold medal as part of the winning U.S. team in the 400-meter medley relay.

"I was nervous the first day, but I've learned to relax more each day," she said.

"Since I've been here, I really haven't done too much except eat, do interviews, practice or compete, and go to sleep," said Nall. "Maybe when I get home, I'll visit some old friends in Pennsylvania. Or get that driver's license."

Nall can begin living a normal life again today.

She hopes.

The team curfew no longer affects her, and she can trade in some pasta for junk food. No more stopwatches. No more whistles. Big brother Marc already has been invited to lunch.

Now she has to work on the media siege. Camera crews, reporters and photographers were all over her again yesterday.

She had won her third medal in five days, and her breaststroke time of 1 minute, 8.67 seconds was the eighth fastest ever.

There were other amazing athletes in the quartet -- Lea Loveless, Crissy Ahmann-Leighton, Jenny Thompson -- which broke an 8-year-old world record with a time of 4:02.54. The previous record was 4:03.69 by an East German team in 1984. Yesterday, the margin of victory was 2.65 seconds over Germany. The Unified Team finished third.

Loveless took the lead on the backstroke, then Nall held it on the breaststroke. Ahmann-Leighton stretched the lead on the butterfly and Thompson was uncatchable on the freestyle. But when the relay was over, Nall was the object of most of the media's attention.

"This is what I'm talking about," said her father, John Nall, jogging down the street following the crowd that had surrounded his daughter.

Minutes later, he was one of several family members who piled into a van and was driven to an NBC studio for another interview.

"We want her back," he said. "We like being around her. We want a regular family life. It has always been a good one, and we expect to have the same type of relationship again. Anita is still my baby."

Anita Nall covets the family relationship, too. She'll attend the remaining swimming events today, and then catch some of Barcelona's attractions with her family.

Maybe walk on La Rambia boulevard, with its assortment of shops and cafes. Or tour Sagrada Familia, the famous unfinished cathedral. Possibly eat dinner with her parents at La Dorada, one of the city's finest restaurants.

"I heard this is a pretty nice city," said Anita Nall. "I've got a couple of days. What I would really like to do is watch some of the other competition. Maybe catch a little water polo. You know, fun stuff."

The family will return home Aug. 4, and Nall says she plans to take a few days off, most likely visit friends from her old neighborhood in Harrisburg, Pa.

"You know how long it has been since I've had a vacation?" asked Nall. "It's been three years. The last time was when I went to the beach. That lasted a day."

Nall doesn't know how long this vacation will last, either. The Phillips 66 National Swimming Championships are in Mission Viejo, Calif., Aug. 17-21.

She might attend.

She might not.

"I'll have to talk to my coach and see what he has to say," said Nall.

Coach Murray Stephens said: "Basically, it's her call. She knows how she feels. She probably needs to take some time off. It's been a long week, a very successful week."

A bronze medal in the 200 breaststroke. A silver medal and American record in the 100 breaststroke.

And yesterday, a gold medal and world record in the medley relay.

"These accomplishments have just started to sink in," said Nall. "It's been a really great meet, and I'm really happy. I don't think I could ask for anything more."

How about that driver's license?

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