Th�ni should do well at St. Moritz, but he may not be the best even in the slalom events. His countryman Piero Gros, 19, is considered a virtuoso. He already has three victories and three other finishes in the top 10 in races this season, and he could win both slalom golds.
The best non-Italian slalom racer appears to be a veteran German, Christian Neureuther. America's Bobby Cochran, an uneven performer, is capable of an any-given-day victory, but so are a dozen other skiers. Who can ever forget that Spaniard, old what's his nombre, who took the gold in Sapporo? (Francisco Fernandez Ochoa, in case you had.) The one not to forget here could be Hansi Hinterseer of Austria, a strong racer who has a win, second and third so far.
But plainly the most exciting skier of the year so far is Austria's lithe 19-year-old downhiller, Franz Klammer. He is possibly the best of the young skiers who are developing the kind of triple-event excellence that was once the specialty of such superheroes as Killy and Karl Schranz. A hard-muscled farm boy from the village of Mooswald in Austrian Carinthia, near the Yugoslav border, Klammer electrified ski racing in early December when he bolted down a precipitous course of boiler-plate ice in Schladming at the astounding average speed of 111.22 kilometers an hour (nearly 70 mph). It was an alltime record for a downhill race. Afterward Klammer forthrightly told an interviewer, "I don't think anything beyond that can be demanded of a downhill racer. It was the limit of what can be done." The Swiss downhiller Bernhard Russi, twice world champion, might have agreed. Russi said, "I don't know how he was able to ski faster than I did. I myself was skiing well beyond my limits."
Klammer is among the hot favorites in the downhill at St. Moritz and should have a good shot at the combined, since he is a workmanlike slalomist, but he will get tough competition in the downhill from Roland Collombin of Switzerland, who has nosed him out in three recent races, the latest coming last weekend in the classic Swiss Lauberhorn, and a 19-year-old Italian, Herbert Plank, as well as from Russi. By winning the Lauberhorn, Collombin clinched the World Cup downhill title, a prize Klammer had boldly hoped to seize himself. "At St. Moritz anyone can win." Klammer had said early in the season. "It's risky to bet everything on it. I'm fighting for victory in the World Cup." Now the stakes at St. Moritz are higher than Klammer had bargained for, with its downhill his greatest single opportunity for sustaining his climb toward stardom. In any case, there is no shortage of bright young princes of racing. Perhaps when they have finished competing in St. Moritz, one will be worthy to reign with the queen.