The Winter Olympics begin next Tuesday in Grenoble, France, and in this issue, beginning on page 24, we present our quadrennial preview of the big ice-and-snow show.
Tucked into this rich mixture is a tart, succinct chart (page 26) that flatly predicts who is going to win what in which sport. It has been prepared by Writer-Reporter Nancy Williamson, whose work is efficient and maybe even prescient. Before the 1964 Winter Games at Innsbruck, she put figurative bets down on gold-medal winners in 34 events. Twenty-four of her choices finished in the top three, and 14 won golds, a winning-favorite percentage of 41.2—which is better than horse handicappers usually do. And there is no Morning Téléphérique or Daily Slalom Form for Nancy to pore over in her search for the truth.
It was an impressive performance, but our favorite cold-weather lady fortune-teller pooh-poohs it. "Whenever I was in doubt in 1964," she says, "all I did was pick a Russian. They won 11 gold medals." This year she altered her system somewhat. "I prayed a lot and had two martinis." Nonetheless, having closely followed winter-sports entries and results, she was able to narrow down the field of potential medal winners to a practical size. "Then I sent wires to people in Vienna, Oslo, Moscow and the Alps, saying, 'Help!' Their answers were excellent, but they usually didn't agree with each other or with us." Out of all this, Nancy made her final selections. This magazine is not supposed to be a tip sheet, but, psst, buddy, look at these winners.
Nancy, a tall, pleasant girl who may well be the best athlete on our staff, grew up in Milford, Conn. and Scarsdale, N.Y. Her two older brothers started her swimming at 4, skiing at 5, playing tennis at 7 and sailing at 9. She later played on a New England Junior Wightman Cup team, but, she says, "I had a rather erratic record. The USLTA wrote me saying they were confused—I have since learned that is not unusual for the USLTA—and did not know how to rank me. I think I ended up 11th in singles among New England girls and sixth in doubles."
At Northwestern University (You think they recruit just football players?) Nancy was president of the Women's Athletic Association and won a Northwestern trophy for best combining spirit, scholarship and athletic ability. With SPORTS ILLUSTRATED her skiing ability has been a big, and sometimes spectacular, help. She once crashed our pages, anonymously, after skiing full-tilt into a mogul, those bumps a skier is supposed to go around. "Have you ever seen," asked our ski man, "a tall girl on long skis do a complete somersault? And land on her feet?"
A few years ago, Nancy took time off from all this activity to marry 6'4½" Bob Williamson, a music buff with a minimal interest in sports. He really didn't have a chance. The wedding reception was at a yacht club, and when the bride and groom left they roared off into the sunset in a motorboat.