A gold medal series of interviews centered on the performances and personalities of contemporary American women athletes. Jordan, an experienced hand, clicks out action detail like a time clock and offers some convincing, even startling conclusions about the personal and establishment conflicts female athletes must confront. Among the subjects: a track star, wrestler (""The Fabulous Moolah""), speed skater, gymnast, field hockey halfback, fencer, ""shooter"" (""I shoot better in a match. . . . A guy's got to prove he's a man. . .""); members of two softball teams, a power of weight lifters, a drag racer--and Mary Jo Peppler, champion volley ball player once elbowed out of Olympic play, now a pro and winner of the Women's Superstar Competition. Jordan gives prime space and thought to the concluding piece on Peppler, for the attitudes of most of the others seem to be echoed in the life/playstyle of this candid, friendly, yet oddly inaccessible athlete. Jordan stages a one-on-one game with Peppler and wonders why he feels he has to win; he develops a new sensitivity to male put-downs of female athletes; and he emphasizes the women's conscious desire for, as Peppier puts it, ""finesse and a striving for perfection"" as against competitive aggressiveness. Although Jordan is not above press box sentiment at times (The Moolah's profile fades out with her tears), he catches brilliantly the flow and movement of absorbed athletes in action, and projects a new and vital view of an emerging sports culture. Top drawer.