First of all, there are many more good racers now—three times as many as when Sailer was No. 1.
Second, the Olympic giant slalom requires two runs now instead of one. Third, there now are slalom eliminations leading up to the final. Finally, Sailer was not favored to win three golds as Killy is. In fact, the pressure is building so intensely that Jean-Claude wishes that Grenoble would go away.
Realistically, Killy knows that Olympic success is as important to his future as good vineyards are to a vintner's. In case he forgets now and then, there are a lot of other good racers around to remind him, and they have. In all of the January pre-Olympic races, many of which have been part of the World Cup schedule, Killy seemed far from unbeatable. Austria's Gerhard Nenning, for example, won the only two downhills that have been run. Switzerland's Dumeng Giovanoli won the only two World Cup slaloms, and another Swiss, Edmund Bruggmann, took one of the two World Cup giant slaloms.
At the same time Killy, with the world press wondering if he had peaked too soon—last year—captured the other World Cup giant slalom, placed second in one downhill, second in one giant slalom and third in a slalom. In Kitzb�hel he won the Hahnenkamm combined title, and he goes to Grenoble leading the World Cup standings once more. Despite this, he has at times been uncharacteristically irritable, tensed up, sullen and depressed. He has sought every opportunity to scurry out of the spotlight, as if the cloud of Olympic pressure were growing blacker each day. Indeed, how Killy reacts to this hazard in Grenoble will be as interesting as anything that takes place. With or without success, he says he wants to retire and "make money" after Grenoble.
Certainly Killy has far more competition than he had a year ago. Austria's Nenning and Karl Schranz, who Killy says will die on the slopes, and a young slalom ace named Alfred Matt have been right there on the clock.
And there have been hordes of good Swiss—Bruggmann and Giovanoli, Jos Minsch, Willy Favre, Peter Frei, Stefan Kaelin, and Jean-Daniel Daetwyler. They have taken turns littering the top 10 with four and five racers.
Still, Killy has a way of diminishing his odds. He says he believes that at Grenoble there will not be so many clutch racers. He says that in downhill, for instance, only six or seven other than himself have a real chance. Among them are Nenning and Schranz, of course, America's Billy Kidd, Bruggmann and Germany's Franz Vogler, a big fellow whom Killy would make the favorite if the course suddenly turned soft and slow. In the giant slalom, the Frenchman enlarges the list to 12, and in slalom he expands it even more to 20 racers, throwing in some good Scandinavians like Norway's Haakon Mjoen.
Meanwhile, the fact remains that beyond Killy and the young downhiller, Orcel, France's men have not had a good pre-Olympic season. Guy P�rillat has skied beneath his reputation. Lacroix is still only partly recovered from an appendectomy and an injury, and there is a question whether those promising youngsters, Penz, Augert and Rossat-Mignod, have the experience to come through at Grenoble. The French say they do.
The French are also trying hard to keep up their confidence. And it honestly must be said that for four weeks now, for whatever reasons the French may give for not winning everything—pacing, too much snow, etc.—the Austrians and Swiss have looked stronger. Maybe the French are hiding something. Bonnet says they are.
The French girls, however, that old front four of Goitschel, Steurer, Mir and Famose, are hiding nothing. They have been extremely good in the face of stiff competition from a rejuvenated Austrian team, led by Gertrud Gabl and Olga Pall, a bushel of spirited American girls, and a lone little Swiss girl, Fernande Bochatay, who has won a pair of World Cup races.