THAT GLAMOROUS DEVIL AND HIS CHORUS LINE
The French win, the once powerful Austrians are stupefied by the fact that they do, and the U.S. plants an occasional seed of hope. This has been the basic script of Alpine ski racing for two years, and it did not change last week, even though the action shifted from the high, open slopes of the Alps to the less dramatic hills of New Hampshire. That glamorous devil, Jean-Claude Killy, sporting sideburns and hair long enough to get a Long Island teen-ager expelled from school, performed his usual trick of winning all of the silverware in town. And when he was not busy adding throngs of New Englanders to his long list of admirers, his chorus line—the French girls—provided some interesting entertainment of their own.
Killy, who has lost only five races this year, swept the downhill, giant slalom and slalom in Franconia, N.H. at the North American championships and threatened to ring up a perfect score of 225 points in the new World Cup competition. He has already captured the cup, and is as far ahead of his nearest rival as the Savoie is from New Hampshire. He needs but one more giant-slalom victory in the next two weeks to get that perfect score. Right now Killy has 215 points, which is more than twice the number collected by the second and third male skiers. Teammate Guy Périllat has 104, and Austrian Heini Messner has 100. The Frenchmen have six of the top 10 places and, since there is also a team trophy in the World Cup program, they will undoubtedly take that home as well. Karl Schranz, only last year Killy's rival for world's best skier, has just 51 points.
Serving as a happy interruption to Killy's spectacular show at Franconia were the surprisingly good performances of Americans Jimmy Heuga in slalom and Jim Barrows in downhill. Americans normally finish the downhill two or three days after the French and Austrians. But Barrows, a big ex-football player from Steamboat Springs, Colo., one of Coach Bob Beattie's brightest hopes, blazed to the finish only one second behind Killy and into third place behind Guy Périllat. It was the best downhill for a U.S. racer since Billy Kidd, who is recuperating this season from an assortment of injuries, took a third in the Hahnenkamm at Kitzb√ºhel a year ago. Barrows' feat was, in fact, one of the alltime best downhills for an American. We obviously haven't had many to brag about.
Heuga closed the meet in the chill of last Sunday afternoon by running one of his best slalom races since 1964, when he was third in the Innsbruck Olympics and won the Kandahar at Garmisch. Jimmy started from the 15th position in his first run but wiggled up to the second fastest time behind—big surprise—Killy. Then in the second heat he had the fastest clocking, with exceptionally smooth form. Killy—inspired, perhaps by the towering presence of a neighboring mountain named Lafayette—managed to beat him by .07 second, which is about as long as it takes to wink at a teeny bopper.
When Killy wasn't dashing over the well-prepared slopes of Franconia and attracting hordes of autograph-seekers—something of a new sight around an American ski race—the sometimes rowdy, sometimes ingratiating French girls were onstage. Foremost among them was Marielle Goitschel, and spotlighting her presence was the struggle she was involved in for the women's World Cup championship with her teammate Annie Famose and Canada's Nancy Greene.
Marielle conducted herself at Franconia with all the feminine grace of an irritable truck driver in a roadside tavern. Her language around the finish areas would have made a linebacker blush if he understood French. After she had fallen in the downhill on Friday she bullied her way into a fenced-off snow patch reserved for officials and began hollering about what a lousy place New Hampshire was. Obviously, she was unimpressed by the evidence that New Hampshire, playing host to its first big international ski event, was staging one of the best-run races in U.S. ski history, or even by the fact that the state had produced Mary Baker Eddy, Daniel Webster and Bob Beattie.
After her fall she stood on the sidelines until the men's downhill began. Then she led Willy Schaeffler, the technical director of the races, a wild chase down the mountain. While the men's downhill race was in progress Marielle swooped on and off the course. Willy, outraged, schussed after her, gesturing and commanding her to get off the course. Marielle would ski down a hundred yards, stop, turn around and ask what he wanted. But as Willy got close she would outrun him again.
The day before, though, Marielle had pulled her biggest stunt of all. At the starting gate for her downhill nonstop run she refused to wait for the racer ahead of her to get safely down the trail. She started to push off, but an assistant starter held a ski pole outstretched in front of her.
"What are you doing?" she screamed. "No one in the world stops me from going where I please." With that, Marielle shoved the poor fellow, sending him spilling backward into the snow, and tossed his ski pole into the woods. And she fled away.
"These antics of hers are not funny anymore," said Schaeffler later. "People have been calling her 'playful Marielle' for three years, but do you want to know what she is? She is a bouncer in a Paris nightclub."
But she is still a very good skier, and is clinging to her role as the best woman racer in the world, though just barely. She is having her poorest season since she emerged with that reputation at the Innsbruck Olympics in 1964.
For three winters Marielle almost never fell in a race or in practice and was virtually unbeatable. She was too agile and strong. You could put her in a four-way intersection of Mexico City taxicabs, and the odds would be against her getting knocked off her feet. But this year she has been catching snow in the face like a beginner. She fell in a slalom at Oberstaufen. She fell in another slalom at Monte Bondone. She did a classic cartwheel in downhill practice at Bad Gastein and suffered a mild concussion. And then she came out of her binding in the Franconia downhill and sliced a couple of moguls off old C-93, which was the name of the downhill course before New Hampshire Governor John King changed it to The Killy Racing Trail.
There have been several explanations for the fact that Marielle is not dominating her sport the way she has done in the past—for the fact that she has come back to the field, so to speak, thereby giving Annie Famose and Nancy Greene a shot at the women's World Cup.
The word in Europe was that she simply had not trained seriously enough and was perhaps growing complacent. She did suffer an injury to her Achilles' tendon in Val-d'Is√®re, her home in the French Alps, before the major part of the season started. A further explanation for her obvious inconsistency in 1967 was offered by a journalist who knows her well, Serge Lang of L'Equipe. "I think she may be in love," said Serge.
Whether any of these reasons were valid only Marielle could say, and she chose to blame it all on her preseason training.
"Hurting my foot in Val-d'Is√®re ruined my training and got me off to a bad start," she said. "Yes, I have a boy friend, but I never see him. He is a Parisian."
She swore she was not complacent, primarily because of Annie Famose. "She has always been there to overtake me when I have faltered," she says. "I fear Annie constantly, and therefore I must always try my best."
Annie Famose became someone to be feared last August, when she won the world championship in slalom at Portillo. Until then she had been the girl who finished second to Marielle on just about every Alp in Europe.
Famose is a little, dark-eyed, animated cutie with black bangs who can whoop or weep at the drop of a decimal point on a result sheet. Next to Killy, she is the member of the French team who is most popular with the other racers. Men have been known to take one glance at her cheerfully vivid smile and vote her the girl they would like most to take on their next Mediterranean cruise.
Annie stayed within reasonably warm pursuit of Nancy Greene when the World Cup competitions got under way in January. That was when Nancy was winning four out of five races in Europe. Annie captured the only one that Greene lost, and also got a second. She then took another, a slalom, in France the week Nancy went home to Canada, and that made it a ball game.
It may turn out that returning home for the month of February and missing some of the World Cup races in Europe will cost Nancy the overall title. It was then that Marielle and Famose passed her. Nevertheless, Nancy Greene went back to a delirious reception in Canada. Her success seemed to give the country its biggest boost since Canada won the world hockey championship in 1961. Just the week before Franconia there was a Nancy Greene Day in Rossland, B.C., where she had been paraded through town on a float, was given the Freedom of the City award and a lifetime membership to the local ski area.
"At first I don't think many of us even knew which events were counting for the World Cup," Nancy said last week. "But then it started to get important, and now I want to win it badly."
Nancy wants it so much, in fact, that it has become difficult to be good friends with Marielle Goitschel.
"We just compete too hard against each other," said Nancy. "But she is the kind of person I would really like to get to know someday when we aren't racing anymore."
Greene and Famose are far friendlier, or one would have to assume so from the fact that Annie brought Nancy two specially made wool caps from France.
Actually, the Franconia races did little to clear up the World Cup muddle among the three girls, only serving to add more weight to the competitions this week and next at Vail, Colo., and Jackson Hole, Wyo.
The World Cup is designed to determine the best racers over a whole season. A racer takes his or her three best results in slalom, giant slalom and downhill—nine in all—and the one with the largest combined total of points is the World Cup champion. The skiers can also be named champions in three individual events, and medals will be awarded for these. For example, all three young ladies arrived in New Hampshire on the brink of winning a medal apiece. Goitschel had won two downhills, Greene two giant slaloms and Famose two slaloms. One more victory in those events would assure them of no worse than a tie for a World Cup medal in those specialties.
The way they began to ski at Franconia, however, left the thousands of New Hampshire spectators wondering what all of the furor was about. After Marielle fell in the downhill Greene finished a deeply disappointing 13th. Famose did grab a third as another French girl, small but powerful Isabelle Mir, sped away from the pack to win.
Since the mountains of New Hampshire are like snowbanks compared to, say, the Alps, it was a short downhill. But it was a good one with varied terrain, a lot of high-speed turns, and bumps—"a good technical course," the racers described it. The French women's coach, Jean Béranger, said, "It is no surprise that Mir should have won. She and Erika Schinegger [Austria] are the two best women downhillers in the world now. Marielle is in poor form."
The giant slalom proved just as inconclusive. Nancy Greene ran a beautiful race on a tight course—the gates were so close it looked more like a slalom—but she failed to win by .18 second. That was the margin by which Christine Béranger, Marielle's older sister and the wife of their coach, was first. Nancy was third. Between them came young Florence Steurer, another French girl to watch—she is fifth in women's World Cup competition with 99 points. Isabelle Mir has 100.
Even the French were stunned by Christine's win. She had not raced well in more than a year, but there she came, as fluid and graceful as everyone remembered her from Innsbruck. She took the bottom of the course like an instructor giving a demonstration. She had the line and the advantage of the No. 1 starting position, and later on Nancy, who started 14th and therefore had more ruts to contend with, simply could not overcome her initial handicap, although she lashed at the gates like the aggressor she is. Marielle finished seventh and Famose eighth, too far back for their World Cup standings to be seriously affected.
With events running out, Sunday's slalom became all the more important as well as dramatic. The town was poised for the most memorable traffic jam in New Hampshire's history.
This was the day everything returned to form, including the American girls, who should be decent in slalom—and suddenly were. The weather had turned colder after two days of snow-softening sun, and the hill was hard and fast. Marielle, back at her best, ripped off a victory in the slalom while Isabelle Mir, who will be somebody to watch at the Grenoble Olympics next year, took second, Famose took third and Nancy Greene did what she unfortunately has done before—fell in the second run after having led the first.
At the top of the hill, honey-blonde Penny McCoy had announced, "The teeny boppers are going to go so fast today they're going to have to clock us with radar." And when the clocking was done, U.S. teammate Rosie Fortna had skied into fourth place, Penny was in fifth and Suzy Chaffee was in seventh.
Marielle had been third in the first run, a full three seconds behind Nancy, and she might have been thinking about her ankle, her Achilles' tendon or maybe her boy friend in Paris. But Marielle is Marielle—particularly when she needs to come from behind. And no one was going to beat her on the second run. Maybe the only person who could have beaten her was Jean-Claude Killy. She won by .36 second.
In the end, World Cup points separating the three racers remained virtually unchanged by the Franconia events. Marielle had protected her lead, after all—and even improved it slightly. Annie had crept up just a bit, and Nancy was still looking for the still possible big win that could overtake the French. The curtain was still up for two more rousing weeks of girls racing, with Jean-Claude continuing to show them all how it ought to be done.
MARVIN E. NEWMAN
A flailing streak in superstretch, Killy wins his sixth major downhill in six starts. As tribute, Governor John W. King of New Hampshire renamed the short but demanding course The Killy Racing Trail.
MARVIN E. NEWMAN
The best girl skiers in the world, Marielle Goitschel (top), Annie Famose and Nancy Greene, refurbished their rivalry in New Hampshire.
THE GIRLS' RACE FOR THE WORLD CUP
Points for the World Cup of skiing—a 1967 innovation—are earned for placings in downhill (D), slalom (S) and giant slalom (GS) events selected by the World Cup committee. There are nine World Cup meets, those listed plus two more to take place in the U.S. (this week's giant slalom race at Vail, Colo, and next week's finale, the slalom and giant slalom at Jackson Hole, Wyo.). Only a racer's three best scores in each of the three events (indicated in red on the chart) are counted in the World Cup total. Thus, since first place earns 25 points, the maximum a skier can get is 75 in one event, or 225 in all. Jean-Claude Killy, who has clinched the men's World Cup already, has 215 points. Even though Marielle Goitschel leads her rivals, either could overtake her in the races to come.