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Everything that charm, efficiency, esthetic sensitivity, hard work, pride, clean living, prayers—and lots and lots of money—can do has been done to make the 1972 Olympic Winter Games in Sapporo an unforgettable event. The often-grumpy humor that prevailed in 1968 at Grenoble is long past now, and the Japanese have the Olympic torch. Though much of Sapporo is a sprawl of industrial urbanity, the new Olympic sites approach works of art and the city itself is already prettier than usual, thanks to a radiant display of ice sculpture through its snowy streets.

The Japanese are determined to outdo the world in this Winter Olympics. True, there will be no Charles de Gaulle to appear majestically bareheaded, untouched by the cold as if he had just stepped down from some divine mountaintop, which is what happened last time. But the Emperor of Japan—who once carried his own intimations of divinity—will grace the ceremonies with his special presence. As the final touches were put to the facilities this month, it was announced that the Japanese so far have spent a staggering total of $31 million on the Sapporo Games—more than any nation in Winter Olympic history, $12.5 million more for installations than was spent in France in 1968. The Sapporo total does not include the $119.5 million that went to pay for the new silent subway system, whose rubber-tired cars have been swooshing since mid-December between the suburban Olympic Village and the heart of town.

In the Village no expense will be spared to make the 2,300 or so athletes and officials feel wanted. Menus will swing from Far Eastern specialties to such staples as hamburgers and milkshakes, all based on a 6,000-calorie-a-day average.

The prestige of Japan is at stake, and mere money is no object. The one unmanageable—and so unpredictable—element, as always, is weather. And there is great fear about that, for not long ago it was forecast that a horrendous doka yuki—an extra-heavy blizzard—would bury Sapporo sometime during the Feb. 3 to Feb. 13 period of the Olympics. If this should happen, the Japanese profess to be ready—with men and money. They are willing to spend as much as $3.5 million to mount what surely would be the world's most elaborate snow-removal operation. Behind each snowstorm will come a course-packing battalion of up to 3,500 members of the Self Defense Forces, enough army boots to smooth out any downhill or slalom run.

Well, doka yuki or no doka yuki, the Games will go on, and neither the cast of contestants nor the grand patterns of winter sports are quite the same as before. This time it seems that IOC President Avery Brundage is adamant about stamping out the widespread professionalism in amateur skiing, and possibly most of the finest Alpine and many Nordic racers will not be allowed to march in the grand parades or compete for Olympic medals. Brundage himself has advanced an alternate plan: stage just plain FIS world championship events, without Olympic sanction, on the Sapporo facilities. But the decision will not come until the last minute, and the Japanese, with a huge financial and emotional investment, can only hold their breath until then.

If full-scale Alpine events are held, it is unlikely that any one racer will run everyone off the courses as Jean-Claude Killy did with his dramatic triple-medal sweep in 1968. (An outbreak of broken legs and ankles has further diminished that chance, one of the more recent victims being France's slalom artist, Patrick Russel.) International racing power is now more widespread, and there is a good chance this year that as many as six countries could divide the medals.

With the women, a russet-haired, broad-hipped Austrian farm girl named Annemarie Proell is building a splendid prospect of winning two, possibly all three Alpine gold medals, although one or another of France's brilliant little ladies will likely ruin her sweep. Annemarie herself says, "I don't think I can win all three events. The slalom is very steep at the top and not to my liking."

Back in 1968 the Russian cross-country skiers were beaten by the blue-eyed Norwegians. This year the Soviet men will probably win more gold than anybody, and their cross-country ladies, a robust and muscular sorority, are just about invincible. The Russian hockey team is on a par with the Boston Bruins, as usual, and simply cannot be beaten. Indeed, it seems as if this could be a remarkably triumphant Olympics for Communist countries. Even East Germany has been converted into an athlete factory in recent years, drafting promising children and putting them into early training almost as if they were racehorses. The results of it all will be monumentally apparent in Munich this summer, but even at Sapporo the East Germans will probably win an impressive number of medals.

The host Japanese, meanwhile, have never, ever won a gold medal in the Winter Games, and, indeed, only one silver. But this year, given the impetus of having their very own Olympics, they have developed two strong contenders, the dazzling ski jumper Yukio Kasaya, who has been superhuman on the European circuit this winter, and Keiichi Suzuki, a surging speed skater.

So much for Olympic power. The U.S. has only marginal hopes of winning any of the ski events, with the possible exception of a slalom medal by one of the Cochran sisters or Tyler Palmer. And another notably uncommon condition that has dampened U.S. hopes is the fact that an American is not favored to win a gold medal in figure skating. This appears to be the year for Trixie Schuba of Austria, and this country's two shiniest stars—Julie Lynn Holmes and Janet Lynn—must simply wait their turn for first place.

But all is not lost. The U.S. still has a strong chance for a gold medal in the person of a childlike 16-year-old named Annie Henning (see cover), whose game is speed skating. Possibly—if Annie Henning and certain of her teammates succeed in Sapporo somewhat beyond their dreams—the name of a small town in Illinois could become almost as famous for its skaters as Sparta once was for its soldiers.

If it chose to do so, the town of Northbrook, Ill. could post at its limits one of those ebullient booster billboards so common to the Midwest—HAY CAPITAL OF THE WORLD Or SOYBEAN MECCA OF THE UPPER MIDWEST. Northbrook's sign would proclaim HOME OF AMERICA'S WINTER OLYMPIC HOPES or even NATIONAL INCUBATOR OF THE U.S. SPEED SKATER. And it would be true, for Northbrook—a neat and affluent and almost elegant suburb of Chicago, with some 27,000 white-collar souls in residence—is sending no less than five of its children to the Olympic Games in Sapporo with the 17-member U.S. speed-skating team. Annie Henning and Dianne Holum and Leah Poulos, all of whom have won medals in world competition, and Neil Blatchford and Greg Lyman, all live in Northbrook, Ill., and all have made the American Olympic team.

But Northbrook is not the kind of a town for signs; the tone of boosterism cuts against the grains which run through proper bedroom suburbs such as this. (Well, the Chamber of Commerce stationery does plug Northbrook as "The Skating Capital of America.") The population of the town has doubled in the last 10 years. There are few stately old homes and fewer stately old trees, for Northbrook was only recently nothing but cold Illinois prairie—a stretch of bleak cornfields and frozen pastures. The place is snug and costly now, and when the community proclaims its pride in its skaters, it does so with cash rather than with self-advertisements—the town chipped in $2,600 last fall to send its skating offspring to Europe for a month of training. The best returns on North-brook's investment should come from Annie Henning and Dianne Holum, two young ladies who live less than a mile away from each other yet who could scarcely be farther apart in their approaches to sport—and to life.

Annie is a pixielike high school junior who is sunny and relaxed, a curly-haired blonde with a sweet smile, an apostle of the luck that resides in a Snoopy doll and of the restorative powers of Peter Pan peanut butter. Though she is still a child, no one on earth is Annie Henning's equal at the intense bursts of speed required to excel in the 500-meter sprint. She broke her own world record over that distance three weeks ago, winning an international race in Switzerland in 42.5. Her coach, Ed Rudolph, another Northbrook citizen, who is a landscape contractor by profession and the town park commissioner by avocation when he is not coaching speed skaters, says bluntly: "They may as well carve Annie's name on the gold medal right now. Unless she breaks a leg or gets the measles, she simply cannot lose the 500." But further, Annie also might win a longer race, the 1,000-meter event, since the day after setting the 500 record she went out and clipped .4 off the world mark for that distance, as well.

Despite her elfin features, Annie Henning is an impressively strong young lady, blessed with a speed skater's classic powerful thighs. The woman Annie will one day become has not yet quite taken over from the little girl she was—or from the tomboy she remains. She is a fine swimmer, skier, sailor and back-lot baseball player, and until this season she was a radiant star halfback for her undefeated intramural Powder Puff football team; in fact, she scored five touchdowns in the 1970 Powder Puff Super Bowl. Now, due to her Olympic obligations, Annie has had to forgo her football career. She says, sadly, "I miss Powder Puff more than I miss going to dances or staying up late at night."

Naturally, the life of a world-class speed skater is not exactly the same routine existence as a run-of-the-mill Northbrook teen-ager. Before she left for Europe last month, Annie spent at least four intensive, exhausting hours a day skating at the West Allis, Wis. rink, a full-hour commute each way. She is not in school now, though she plans to graduate with her class of '73 by making up courses in the summer. Annie's rigorous training for the Olympics began last April with jogging and bicycling around the Illinois countryside. Because there are such throngs of speed-skating hopefuls in Northbrook, these sessions actually become enjoyably social. "We jogged in big groups and we'd talk about things and, you know, watch sunsets and pick apples if we saw some. It was sort of fun—nothing like the kind of hard training swimmers go through. They put in all those hours and have all that pressure on them."

Whatever pressures international skating has placed upon the shoulders of Annie Henning, they do not seem to rise from her home. Her parents—father Bill is a hospital consultant, mother Joanne a nursery-school teacher—are pleasant, rather low-key people, owners of one of Northbrook's more modest homes. They show no overt signs of that dread hunger which drives some parents to feed obsessively on the stardom of their children. Indeed, Annie's star seems to have risen with only the most casual kind of parental push. Her father was asked if the family had held long and intense councils to decide whether the child Annie should commit herself to scaling the heights of skating, and he said, coolly: "No, it was no huge debate. This sort of thing doesn't need to create a world crisis. There was no compulsion about it, we just want Annie to do it only as long as she enjoys it. If she needs our support, we're here to give it. This is sport—not a lifetime career."

The Henning backing does extend beyond the merely moral; Bill Henning contributes about $2,000 a year for training and equipment expenses out of his own wallet. He raises his eyebrows and shrugs: "It's not deductible either."

Nevertheless, Annie's exposure to the far horizons of the world through skating are considered a true educational dividend. Says Annie, "Being around all these different kinds of people, you learn so much more than if you just stayed home in Northbrook. You grow up a lot more—really, you do."

Well, Annie has been to Europe four times now, learned to speak a smattering of French, Dutch and German. She sips her glass of dinner wine with ladylike aplomb. She is famous. She gets requests for autographs from Europe—some addressed simply, "Anne Henning, Northbrook by Chicago." And, of course, she has grown up a lot more—well, quite a lot more. Annie still will not skate unless she wears a faded knit cap once owned by her brother, and she will not skate without a small Snoopy pin stuck to her uniform, and she will not travel without a love-bedraggled stuffed Snoopy doll and she will not feel at all comfortable away from home unless she has at least three jars of peanut butter stashed in her luggage.

During dinner in a Northbrook restaurant recently, Annie said, "Everything I am today I owe to Snoopy and peanut butter." First giggling as if she were a Brownie scout, she then sipped with dignity at her small glass of red wine as if she were already crowned an Olympic queen.

Of course, it is the smoothly organized speed-skating program in Northbrook that has really brought Annie Henning near the peak of winning an Olympic gold medal. She began wobbling about on skates with her mother when she was four, then at the age of 10 entered the speed-skating program. It is run by Ed Rudolph, the park commissioner, but definitely it was Ed Rudolph the world-class speed-skating coach who discovered Annie's magnificent talents at the sport. "She was a genius on skates," he said. Big Ed Rudolph is a kindly bear of a fellow who moved to Northbrook 35 years ago and grew wealthy with his landscaping business as the former cornfields were transformed with hedges and shrubs and rock gardens. He is coaching the U.S. Olympic team this year along with John Werket of Minneapolis. In recalling his first glance at Annie on skates, Ed said, "When I saw her skate six years ago, I saw nothing but gold medals dancing before my eyes. She was born for it."

Rudolph has trained Annie ever since, and he is still so smitten by her abilities that he flatly—and frequently—predicts that she will repeat the stunning performance of the incomparable Russian, Lydia Skoblikova, who swept all four speed-skating gold medals at the 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck.

The very outspokenness of Rudolph about Annie is one big reason for a rift that has opened in the middle of Northbrook's tight little island of speed skaters. Last year Rudolph said, "Annie is the fastest skater in the world." For months the parents of Dianne Holum did not speak to him and relations are still strained. Dianne and Leah Poulos went to Holland to train with the Dutch last fall.

Well, Ed Rudolph was proved right in 1971 when Annie Henning did, indeed, win the 500-meter sprint in the world meet in Helsinki. She was the fastest, all right. But Dianne Holum also won a gold medal there—in the 1,000-meter race—then went on to win a bronze in the 1,500-meter event and finish fourth in the standings for the coveted overall world championship. This title is awarded on the basis of a combined total of results in four events, and many—perhaps even most—speed skaters consider it a far more prestigious victory than anything even the Olympics can offer.

During the Games of Grenoble, Dianne Holum was America's teen-age darling, for she was just 16 then, too. She had astonished everyone the year before by finishing third overall in the world meet. At Grenoble, skating under enormous pressure, she tied (with two other American girls) for the silver medal in the 500, then won a surprising bronze in the 1,000. In Sapporo, Dianne could win a medal in the 1,000 and in the 1,500, as well as in the strenuous 3,000, for she is a fierce and gifted competitor. She is dedicated to her sport as if it were a religion; she is relatively slim, with long dark brown hair, a pretty face and an intensity toward skating that is almost grim. She wore a small and constant frown during an interview recently at her parents' quite luxurious home in Northbrook, and there was a burning glow in her eyes that practically gave off heat. She said she had decided to train in Holland because there was a "better atmosphere"—meaning, she said, "They believe in working hard. They believe in being tough in their programs. Over here, you rest and stand around and talk and gossip. In Holland, there's no time to talk, no time for funny stuff. I loved it."

Dianne was asked about her personal sacrifices for skating, about limited schooling and the truncated social life that has resulted from her determination to win. She said softly, "Ah, I suppose it is a sacrifice, but it's worth it. I didn't go to one single party all summer long. And I missed school [DuPage Junior College in Glen Ellyn, Ill.] during March, April and May. In June I was training six days a week, three to four hours a day. I was alone, with no one to interrupt me. I trained at night in the summer because it was too hot during the day. I don't mind the sacrifices. I have years ahead of me. I'll probably quit serious skating after this year, but I want a gold medal in the Olympics and I want to win the overall world championship. Those are my goals."

Whether the frisky Miss Henning or the ascetic Miss Holum—or both—can bring back the titles from Japan remains to be seen. Yet whatever happens, it is still something of a surprise to many Americans to find that speed skating, a rather esoteric and unfamiliar sport to most, is this nation's best, and possibly only, hope for an Olympic triumph. The fact is that speed skating has always accounted for as many U.S. medals as any other sport: since the Winter Olympics began in 1924, the U.S. has won seven gold medals at speed skating while all other sports combined accounted for just 16. Of the seven medals this country won in 1968 at Grenoble, five were won by speed skaters. This is even more of a surprise when one considers that the U.S. really has no business at all being any kind of a force in this game. "The U.S. is a speed-skating ghetto," says Jeanne Omelenchuk, the longtime speedster who is a three-time Olympian and, at 40, the grande dame of the sport.

Outside of such rare places as Northbrook, Olympic-style speed skating has almost no following at all, and very few kids even try it. The American style of speed-skating racing is to charge off from the start in one chaotic, wind-milling pack. The European style, which is practiced in all world events, is monumentally civilized by comparison: contestants race in pairs against the stopwatch, with the best time among all entries the winner. Thus any American in international competition must adjust to an entirely different kind of race.

Beyond that, the only standard competition racing rink in the U.S.—indeed, the only one in the entire Western Hemisphere—is one of the tackiest and most depressing-looking sports facilities anywhere. It is located in West Allis, Wis., a dreary suburb of Milwaukee. The rink was built in 1966 on the state fairgrounds, just off Route 94, and it cost $585,720. A fairground may be a gay and festive place when the fair is in progress, but there are no fairs in Milwaukee in the winter; the setting around the rink is bleak, an assortment of empty cattle barns and snow-crusted grandstand seats and great tundralike areas of open ground where the winds from Green Bay howl and moan without interruption. Beneath the damp sky of a Wisconsin winter afternoon, it is a sight calculated to plant gloom in the heart of happy Hans Brinker himself.

In 1970 West Allis was the site of the world championship, and the foreign skaters were simply benumbed by the place. Crowds never reached more than 1,500; in Norway, even small meets between villages often attract 7,000 or 8,000, and in Russia mobs of 100,000 are not uncommon for championship meets. In The Netherlands (which alone boasts 20 artificial rinks, seven of them classic Olympic size), the excitement over speed skating is not unlike Super Bowl fever in America. The Dutch coach Leen Pfrommer sadly surveyed the huddled handful who turned out at West Allis, shrugged and said, "During a big meet in my country, you can drive 100 miles per hour through all the towns in Holland because nobody is on the streets. They are all watching the skating on television." Speed skaters are national heroes in Holland, and many become rich for life when they retire and cash in on their reputations. Recently, the splendid Ard Schenk, who set six world records last year, was honored in a noble fashion that few Dutchmen have ever experienced: a specially grown tulip was named after him.

The U.S. has no such rewards for its speed skaters. There are not even huge ice-revue contracts, such as figure skaters habitually receive. No endorsements. Nor very much except the glory of the victory itself. Indeed, though they are both world medalists, Annie Henning and Dianne Holum are required to pay $20 for a six-week pass to use the rink in West Allis.

Ah, well, perhaps that much will change if they come skating back with the gold from Sapporo.

The form sheet for Olympic favorites has become a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED tradition. On the pages that follow are the prime prospects for medals, presented in gold, silver and bronze sequence.


It is a far piece from lollipop races on good old Mount Ascutney above Brownsville, Vt. to the Olympic slaloms on Mount Eniwa above Sapporo, but the U.S. Skiing Family Cochran is making the full circuit. As things stand now, if there are any American medals to be won in Alpine events in Japan, the chances are mighty good that the winner will be named Cochran. One, two, three or perhaps—with a combination of outlandish good luck and the IOC disqualification of major racers from Europe—even four Cochrans.

True, it is a snowy long shot. Lindy, the youngest at 18, is still developing world-class status. She is not on the Olympic first string, but has placed as high as fourth in tough European competition and would be ready to step in if an injury opened a spot on the team. And Bobby, 20, the only boy in the gang, is fighting off the effects of a painfully wrenched ankle, although he won the U.S. National men's championship last winter in Aspen and has consistently finished as one of the promising U.S. downhillers on the international circuit this season.

But then, along comes Marilyn, soon to be 22, and also Barbara Ann, just turned 21—and they have been among the four or five best women ski racers on earth for the past couple of years. Both are good enough to win some sort of medal in the Olympic slalom or giant slalom.

Medals aside, it is still impressive to find that four children from one modest, two-story farmhouse set beside the Winooski River near Richmond, Vt. have excelled in a sport to a degree that all of them are representing the U.S. in world-class competition at the same time. It is more than impressive—it is unprecedented in the sport.

American skiing has always been an activity gone the family way: in the past 10 years alone there have been Buddy and Skeeter Werner, Chuck and Barbara Ferries, Penny and Pancho McCoy, Judy and Cathy Nagel, Rick and Suzy Chaffee. This year there are Sandy and Eric Poulsen, plus Terry and Tyler Palmer. But never has there been such a crowd from one household as Gordon S. (Mickey) Cochran and his wife Virginia have sent off to the starting gates.

It all began in 1960 when Mickey Cochran found a couple of hundred acres of fine, steep hillside behind that little farmhouse in Richmond. He strung up an inexpensive, but definitely efficient, 400-foot rope tow to the top of the family mountain, eventually added a small battery of lights to the hillside so the kids could train long after Vermont's early winter darkness, and began to polish his children to a skiing brilliance that would form the nucleus of U.S. Alpine hopes. More recently, he installed a second 1,200-foot tow, completing a tiny Cochran skiing circus. Some folks have characterized his insistence on excellence as being a bit Svengalian. One woman whose daughter visited the Cochrans a couple of years ago told Skiing magazine: "She went to Richmond to spend a few days with them—a little vacation, she thought. She came home early. 'My God, Mother,' she told me, 'that place is a training camp. We were up at six to cycle for 20 miles, then play tennis, then run some more miles, then lift weights all afternoon. That's what they do for fun—lift weights. I had to come home to get some rest.' "

The Cochrans bristle at insinuations that they are simply products of Mickey's ambitions. ("I don't think the kids ever got up at six a.m.," says Mrs. Cochran.) "Our parents never forced us to ski," says Bobby. "When we were really young, we started in the lollipop races at Mount Ascutney, and everybody got a lollipop for just finishing the race. Ski racing was something we did without even thinking about it."

Nevertheless, the Cochrans nearly always outclassed the field, and often they were their own major rivals. "We were all very competitive," recalls Marilyn. "Until I was 12 or 13, I could beat Bobby and a lot of the other boys—and I could beat Barbara even when I fell. When she finally did beat me, I was flabbergasted."

The Cochrans are veterans now of all sorts of public attention. Marilyn is the most articulate and outspoken—and the most aggressive—of the girls. She recently stopped eating potatoes, bread and her beloved chocolate bars and lost 20 pounds. She is quite changed. In the past Marilyn was celebrated for her finish-line outbursts—soaking rivers of tears—when she lost a race. She is still known to loose an errant sob now and then. But she says, "I'd like to do well in the World Cup and the Olympics, but I'm not going to condemn myself for the rest of my life if I happen not to be the world's best at something."

Barbara Ann, blonde and diminutive (5'½", 112 pounds) and given to a lot of giggling, is not so much for dwelling on her personal philosophy or on self-analysis beyond the facts and possibilities of racing. She feels that she may have a better chance to bring home a gold medal than many experts might think. "It is very steep at the top of the Sapporo slalom, and I usually make good turns when it's steep—and I keep making good turns when I come off the steep. It's hard for us to ski in Europe, and it's hard for the Europeans to ski in North America. In Sapporo we should all be even."

The Skiing Family Cochran could continue to be a force in world skiing for some years to come. Hank Tauber, the U.S. women's coach, says, "The Cochrans have a confidence thing. They come from a little town, and now they are traveling all over the world. It took them some time to adjust to that, but they have now. Barbara and Marilyn both have a tendency to come out of the woodwork in important races, when the chips are really down. With the environment in Sapporo being not unlike the Eastern U.S., I believe either one could win a gold medal. They've never been better prepared."


Speed skating fans have been waiting since 1952 to see a men's triple-medal sweep in their sport—and this might be the year for it. The one to do it is powerful Ard Schenk (right), holder of six world records, world champ for the past two years and the pride of The Netherlands. In fact, the indestructible Schenk ("He isn't even human," says a teammate) might even medal in a fourth event, the 500 meters. However, he faces Japan's Keiichi Suzuki and Takayuki Hida, the top homemade heroes in this event, plus 1968 winner Erhard Keller of East Germany, Sweden's Hasse Borjes, Finland's Leo Linkovesi and America's steady Neil Blatchford. Blatchford did not win a medal at Grenoble but now, 26 years old and stronger, he looks faster than ever.

In the women's races American superstars Anne Henning and Dianne Holum will meet the traditionally tough Dutch and Russians, but insiders are betting on Henning to win the 500 and then battle Holum for the 1,000. These predicted victories won't come easily: East Germany's Ruth Schleiermacher and Russia's Ludmila Titova will be challenging in both events, and this year Titova has help from Vera Krasnova in the sprints and the undeniably hefty Nina Statkevich, the 1971 world champion, in the distances. Still, in no other sport have the American girls ever looked as good. Here are the predictions:


Keiichi Suzuki, Japan
Erhard Keller, East Germany
Hasse Borjes, Sweden


Ard Schenk, Netherlands
Kees Verkerk, Netherlands
Goran Claeson, Sweden


Ard Schenk, Netherlands
Dag Fornaess, Norway
Goran Claeson, Sweden

MEN'S 10,000-METER

Ard Schenk, Netherlands
Sten Stensen, Norway
Jan Bols, Netherlands


Anne Henning, U.S.A.
Ruth Schleiermacher, East Germany
Vera Krasnova, U.S.S.R.


Anne Henning, U.S.A.
Ludmila Titova, U.S.S.R.
Dianne Holum, U.S.A.


Atje Keulen-Deelstra, Netherlands
Nina Statkevich, U.S.S.R.
Dianne Holum, U.S.A.


Nina Statkevich, U.S.S.R.
Atje Keulen-Deelstra, Netherlands
Sippie Tigchelaar, Netherlands


In spite of the current ruckus over amateurism and eligibility there is a surety one can bet on: if the Nordic events are diluted in the Olympics, the Russians will win practically everything in sight. And if the Nordic events survive intact, the Russians will win everything in sight anyway. Back in the Olympic old days, Scandinavian nations had the sport locked, right up until 1968, but in the 1970 world championships, Russia became the No. 1 Nordic nation, with East Germany powering along just behind. Now the Soviets, after collecting the biggest bag of medals at Vysoke Tatry behind the brilliant performances of cross-country king Vjaceslav Vedenin, a bevy of unbeatable women and a handsome jumper named Garij Napalkov, can be expected to make an even stronger showing at Sapporo. Backing the 29-year-old Vedenin, a tough, tenacious little man who trains harder than anybody, are Vladimir Voronkov, 26, who has emerged as one of the best sprinters in the world; Fjodor Simasov, 25; and Juri Skobov, a 22-year-old who could be the surprise of Sapporo. With the women, the only question is in which order Nina Fjodorova, Galina Kulakova and Alevtina Oljunina will collect their medals. The lone threat to this fearsome trio is Finland's 33-year-old Marjatta Kajosmaa, who beat the Russians several times last year.

In the biathlon the Russians have an unbeatable relay team, and their star in the individual event, Alexander Tikhonov, is said to be merely great. East Germany's best man is Gerhard Grimmer, a 28-year-old cross-country powerhouse. "He combines brute force with splendid technique and a very strong will." says his coach. And his teammate, Gert-Dietmar Klause, called "the smiling cross-country racer," is not far behind. East Germany also has an ace in the Nordic combined, Karl-Heinz Luck, although he will be hard pressed to beat Rauno Miettinen of Finland, who won all the important competitions last year. As for the great Tikhonov, he faces a challenge in the biathlon from East Germany's Dieter Speer, who beat him last year, barely, in the world championships—and Tikhonov has not forgotten.

Meanwhile, the Norwegians have been talking about a comeback with new talent, but their team still relies mainly on the same older men who were beaten by Vedenin and Grimmer in 1970—with the exception of 20-year-old Ivar Formo, last year's sprint sensation. Thus, oldtimer Odd Martinsen may once again be Norway's best bet for a medal. Sweden and Finland are counting on younger racers. Finland's 23-year-old Juha Mieto, at 6'3" perhaps the tallest Nordic at Sapporo, is considered a top sprinter who has at last become consistent. Sweden has two medal prospects for the shorter races in Sven Ake Lundback and Lars Goran Aslund and a tough distance competitor at his peak in Lars-Arne Boiling.

In the jumping events tradition has it that when a jumper is hot he often wins on both hills—and here is Japan's chance to win two gold medals. Yukio Kasaya has been sizzling since he won on the 70-meter hill at Sapporo last year. Russia's Napalkov, the man without nerves, and Norway's In-golf Mork should be his most dangerous opponents. As for the U.S. team, there is a real chance this year for the first Nordic medal ever: it could go to Jim Miller of Mexico, Maine in the Nordic combined. Miller is a well-balanced, consistent jumper and skier who could surprise everybody when the points are totaled. Here are the picks:


Vladimir Voronkov, U.S.S.R.
Juha Mieto, Finland
Odd Martinsen, Norway


Gerhard Grimmer, East Germany
Fjodor Simasov, U.S.S.R.
Vjaceslav Vedenin, U.S.S.R.


Vjaceslav Vedenin, U.S.S.R.
Gerhard Grimmer, East Germany
Lars-Arne Boiling, Sweden


East Germany


Nina Fjodorova, U.S.S.R.
Galina Kulakova, U.S.S.R.
Alevtina Oljunina, U.S.S.R.


Marjatta Kajosmaa, Finland
Alevtina Oljunina, U.S.S.R.
Galina Kulakova, U.S.S.R.




Yukio Kasaya, Japan
Ingolf Mork, Norway
Rudolf Höhnl, Czechoslovakia


Yukio Kasaya, Japan
Garij Napalkov, U.S.S.R.
Jiri Raska, Czechoslovakia


Rauno Miettinen, Finland
Karl-Heinz Luck, East Germany
Jim Miller, U.S.A.


Alexander Tikhonov, U.S.S.R.
Dieter Speer, East Germany
Magnar Solberg, Norway




Russia has dominated hockey for so long—nine straight world and two Olympic championships—that it practically owns permanent possession of the sport. It seems the only thing that can beat the Soviets is another Red Star team and, surprisingly, that might be the answer this year. Rumor has it that Russia is developing one team for the Olympics and another for the world meet in April, and this might lead to some dilution. Further, such familiar Soviet stars as Alexander Ragulin and Vitali Davidow are now in their 30s and slowing down, and experienced goaltender Victor Konovalenko has retired. However, U.S. Coach Murray Williamson, once an All-America at Minnesota, says Russia is still the one to watch: "When Coach Anatoli Tarasov retires, Russia will be vulnerable. But not until then." No matter which team goes to Sapporo, Russia should breeze to another gold medal. The real contest will be for the silver and bronze. The Czechs, nicknamed "The Crown Princes" after finishing second in the last Olympics and 1971 world championships, will face a battle for second this time from Sweden and Finland. In the U.S., meanwhile, it is the same old story: a young, inexperienced, unpredictable team. For the first time in 10 years the club is made up mostly of American collegians with no naturalized Canadians. Three of the strongest players were lost to the NHL last year; now the team's average age is under 22. They could be ready, but an upset like the one that stunned Squaw Valley in 1960 seems unlikely. Fifth place is more like it. The selections:



Of all Olympic sports, figure skating is the hardest to handicap: the game is rampant with politics, nationalistic judging and an odd scoring system whereby the school figures count exactly as much as the exciting free-skating finale. At the world championships last year spectators booed loudly, unable to understand why America's dynamic Janet Lynn lost to lackluster Austrian Beatrix Schuba, but the grading system was to blame. Worse than that, Olympic judges are traditionally reluctant to unseat world champions—who always seem to retire with their medals after the Games to join ice show revues in a marvel of sustained coincidence. Faced with such hard facts, one must resolutely pick defending world titlists Schuba, Czechoslovakia's Ondrej Nepela and Russia's Irina Rodnina and Sergei Ulanov for all the gold medals. If this set pattern should change, certainly the team to watch is the U.S. pair of Ken Shelley and Jo Jo Starbuck (left), who are talented far beyond their ranking but seemingly assigned to wait their turn for the title. In the women's events the mechanical Schuba will undoubtedly come out of the school figures with enough of a lead to sweep the finals, no matter how dazzling Janet Lynn's subsequent free-skating performance. Another strong U.S. contender is Julie Lynn Holmes, often described as a "happy Peggy Fleming," and trained by Peggy's coach, Carlo Fassi, who is noted for turning out champions. Both U.S. girls will be challenged by Canadian Karen Magnussen, whose only problem has been inconsistency. In the men's competition, the world's best freewheeling, high-bounding skater is American John Misha Petkevich, but this Harvard pre-med student always seems to come out of the preliminaries too far behind to catch up. Patrick Pera of France still appears to be the best prospect for a silver medal, but if he falters look to Petkevich or East Germany's Jan Hoffmann, a 16-year-old whiz in the style of Scotty Allen, U.S. bronze medalist in 1964. Finally, Russia also has produced a candidate in Sergei Chetverukhin. The result: this might be the no-gold-medal year for U.S. figure skaters. Here are the picks with just one hedge: in figure skating, never figure the judges.


Ondrej Nepela, Czechoslovakia
Patrick Pera, France
Jan Hoffmann, East Germany


Beatrix Schuba, Austria
Janet Lynn, U.S.A.
Julie Lynn Holmes, U.S.A.


Rodnina-Ulanov, U.S.S.R.
Starbuck-Shelley, U.S.A.
Smirnova-Suraikin, U.S.S.R.


After taking two gold medals in 1968 Eugenio Monti retired—but Italy raises bobsledders like Russia breeds hockey players, and Italy is strongest again, followed by West Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The U.S. has not won a medal since 1956 but driver Paul Lamey (sixth at Grenoble) says, "We have a chance. Only fractions of seconds will separate the medalists in Japan." In the luge the men's competition will focus on the Germanys and Austria. With the women, Poland's Barbara Piecha and Italy's 1968 gold medalist, Erika Leichner, could break up the German monopoly. The selections:



Gaspari-Armano, Italy
Floth-Bader, West Germany
Wicki-Hubacher, Switzerland


West Germany



Josef Fendt, West Germany
Hans Scheidl, East Germany
Manfred Schmid, Austria


Schmid-Walch, Austria
Bredow-Hörnlein, East Germany
Brandner-Schwarm, West Germany


Elisabeth Demleitner, West Germany
Ute Roehrold, East Germany
Margit Schumann, East Germany


Alpine skiing enters the Winter Games wearing an air of upset. Most of the top stars don't know—and may not know until the last minute—whether or not they'll race or watch the races. But further, the peculiar terrain of Sapporo has the experts puzzled. The men's downhill starts and finishes with the steepest straightaway schusses ever; the giant slaloms and slaloms also fall away sharply, and this year it seems best to bet on the acrobats over the boomers. Favorite of the premier downhill event is Switzerland's Bernhard Russi, both acrobat and boomer, but the French front line of Jean-No√´l Augert, Henri Duvillard and Alain Penz also will be strong. Italy's World Cup champion Gustav Th√∂ni (center) is foremost in the slaloms—and secretly hopes he is strong enough in downhill to go for a medal sweep, √† la Toni Sailer in 1956 and Jean-Claude Killy in 1968. (Slalom, yes. Giant slalom, yes. Three medals, no.) Augert also has slalom medals in mind, but on a good day U.S. whiz kid Tyler Palmer could surprise them all. In the women's division 18-year-old Annemarie Proell might well become the first to win three gold medals. The main obstacles in the way of this strong Austrian miss are Fran√ßoise Macchi, Mich√®le Jacot, Isabelle Mir and Britt Lafforgue, all from France. Still, when in doubt, go with Annemarie. Both Barbara and Marilyn Cochran could bring home U.S. silver or bronze slalom medals—and Alpine Director Willy Schaeffler insists the hottest tip of all is little Cindy Nelson, a 16-year-old bomber from Minnesota. Nobody knows Cindy now. Maybe they will after Sapporo. The form sheet:


Bernhard Russi, Switzerland
Henri Duvillard, France
Karl Schranz, Austria


Gustav Thöni, Italy
Jean-Noël Augert, France
Christian Neureuther, West Germany


Gustav Thöni, Italy
Jean-Noël Augert, France
Tyler Palmer, U.S.A.


Annemarie Proell, Austria
Françoise Macchi, France
Isabelle Mir, France


Annemarie Proell, Austria
Françoise Macchi, France
Marilyn Cochran, U.S.A.


Michèle Jacot, France
Barbara Cochran, U.S.A.
Annemarie Proell, Austria




Austria's 1971 World Cup champ Annemarie Proell is strong, fierce—and favorite.


Favorite downhiller in the field is Bernhard Russi, Switzerland's bet for a gold medal.


Hottest skier of the season is Francoise Macchi, young French World Cup leader.


France also counts on slender Michele Jacot, 20, to hold the line against Austria.


Three sisters with a single goal: Marilyn, Lindy, Barbara Ann of skiing's Cochrans.