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"If I had left the American events unpenalized," explained Faure, "her skiers would have been first and second in the list. It would have been all Americans, and it wouldn't have been just. Perhaps I'm a little hard on them, but I have tried to be fair."
Try though he did, Faure's impartial eye failed to observe in clear perspective the fate of Swiss ski star Jos Minsch in the U.S. last spring. During the winter, Minsch had established himself as Europe's best downhill racer. Then he came to America and promptly lost to Buddy Werner in the Harriman Cup. Finally, on April 4, in the world's last major ski race of the season, the 1963 U.S. nationals, Minsch finished third behind Bill Marolt and Buddy Werner and only .7 second ahead of Chuck Ferries. Yet in the present seedings (see chart pages 16-17), Minsch is seeded first in the downhill, while Werner and Marolt are 12th and Ferries a preposterous 46th.
"The result in America," said Faure the European, "was not enough. Minsch was beaten in America, but he won in an important downhill last year in Innsbruck. The people who beat Minsch should have come there and competed. Innsbruck was a trial Olympics. The Japanese came, all the world, but, alas, not the Americans. It was impossible for me to value the race in Innsbruck equal with the one in America."
Perhaps not, but one other observer who was puzzled by the seedings—though not by the European point of view that brought them about—was Switzerland's Marc Hodler, president of the FIS. "You see, unlike the world of politics, Europe still plays the most important, part in skiing," said Hodler, who knows better than anyone what ski victories can mean to countries like France and Austria, where an Olympic hero can be used to great advantage in promoting the winter tourist trade.
"Our racing on the Continent is important because Europe is a very concentrated area with an extremely hard season involving many countries," Hodler continued. "After 10 or 12 races here against each other we have a very exact ranking list. However, I don't know why Robert Faure rated the Americans so poorly, or what his reflections are."
Faure seemed a bit imprecise on this point himself. "Bud Werner was a good skier in 1960 and 1961," he said, "but then he broke his leg and hasn't been to Europe since." The fact is that Werner broke his leg at the end of 1959, won the giant slalom in Courchevel and Oslo in 1962 and competed that same year in the world championships in Chamonix. Reminded of these things, Faure replied, "The time passes so quickly and I forgot. That year Werner did win one race [he really won two] in Europe. This year he has very good points." Good in this case means not only the poor 12th in downhill, but a downright insulting 21st in slalom and 22nd in giant slalom—overall the best individual seeding of any U.S. team member.
"Ferries had very good points in the slalom in 1962," conceded Faure. That was the year Chuck won the Hahnenkamm slalom in Kitzb�hel and a special slalom in Cortina. "But," said the embattled official, who has listed Ferries 23rd among the world slalom specialists, "I cannot say the same for him in 1963"—when Ferries won the U.S. slalom title over people like Buddy Werner and Jos Minsch.
As the controversy grew hotter last week, and as American ski officials became increasingly angry at what they felt was an attempt to maintain Europe's theoretical ski supremacy by legislation rather than by open racing, FIS President Hodler spoke out more and more strongly for the U.S. point of view. "In my opinion, Werner and Ferries should be rated higher," he said. "Individually they are not correctly placed."
As to Faure's low regard for American racing, Hodler says, "The skiing in America among the top 20 is at least as high as it is here. I am only waiting for the day the Americans win the world championships or the Olympics. It will be good for us. Too many Europeans think when Chuck Ferries wins a race it is a big surprise. It isn't." Hodler further states that last year there was a "general understanding" that there would be a fair comparison between U.S. and European events. "On that basis the Americans were right in thinking that there would be no disadvantage in not coming to Europe. It is contrary to our constitution that any nation should feel it needs to come to Europe."
Hodler's view is difficult to reconcile with Faure's method of gauging races. Astonishingly, Faure revealed that a letter was written last year explaining his own position. "But it never left" until after the races in the U.S. were over. "How was I to know the Americans weren't coming to Europe?" added Faure in his own defense.