But every ski meet needs something special, and certainly it came. Ah, yes. There was the small but lovable magnificence of Liechtenstein to contemplate. Never before had this gentle principality experienced the exhilaration of winning medals in world ski racing. Never. Last week it was twice blessed. Hanny Wenzel, 17, a little dumpling of a child who was born in Germany but now lives in Liechtenstein, made two finely tuned assaults on the slalom course and beat the veteran La Jacot. Hanny's victory was delightful enough, but perhaps not stunning since she had already won twice this year on the European circuit. But then one day later even the rich denizens of St. Moritz were a little touched when Hanny's unheralded teammate, Willi Frommelt, suddenly roared down the course to edge out Austrian Karl Cordin for a downhill bronze medal.
Tall, dark, smiling, Willi took his triumph in stride, though he acknowledged the difficulties facing any Liechtensteiner who wishes to become a ski champion: "We have no organized training camps and we have no national programs of any kind, so unless a racer joins one of the big countries' teams he has great difficulties to improve." Hanny trains with the Swiss team, Willi with Austria. Ironically, the men's downhill race was one in which the mystical art of ski waxing was all-important. Willi Frommelt said, "I do not know exactly who waxed my skis, but in any case they were in the Austrian ski room." When he was asked if the Austrians might decline to wax his skis next time since he stole a medal from Cordin, Willi grinned and said, "We must wait and see, mustn't we?"
When the racing ended, little Liechtenstein had done better—astonishingly—than the Swiss team that had dominated the Sapporo Olympics and was trying desperately to reach a medal-winning peak for these home-country championships. The Swiss wound up with a single bronze. Liechtenstein also left behind the racers of America. Indeed, at this point it was not entirely impossible that some other odd and wonderful new entries in world skiing—such as Turkey, Iran, Lebanon or Nationalist China—might soon overtake the U.S.
As the American team left St. Moritz it was in a state of disarray worse than anything it had experienced in decades. The team had been jarred by a shakeup in the coaching staff last January; and while spirits are said to be high, the skiing is clearly too slow. Surveying the shambles around him, the new coach, Hank Tauber, grinned stiffly and said, "I like being where we are now. We can build something. I'm not predicting any pies in the sky, of course, but we have goals set and we are going to meet them."
Perhaps the first such goal might be to keep the American ski team ahead of Lebanon. The second: to someday attain the heights of Liechtenstein.