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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 B�ranger, 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.
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