After the race, Moser-Proell bubbled in an interview over Austrian radio. "Everyone who is listening in my cafe right now can pop a free bottle of champagne."
If Moser-Proell was queen of the mountain, then Stenmark was clearly the king. At midweek he was the odds-on favorite to win the giant slalom. His chief threats were Andreas Wenzel, a new-young star from Liechtenstein, Heini Hemmi of Switzerland and Phil Mahre of White Pass, Wash., the best of the U.S. racers. Mahre, who had beaten Stenmark twice last year, made a strong first run and finished in 1:36.62—better than anyone except the super Swede: Stenmark swept down in a stunning 1:35.48. That put him beyond reach, but Mahre seemed to have a silver medal within his grasp. But no. This, too, was a course smothered in Schlag, and Mahre's skis turned sluggish in the second run. He slipped back to fifth place, a scant .38 of a second (roughly the length of a ski) behind the jubilant Liechtenstein silver medalist Wenzel and .19 of a second behind Wenzel's teammate, the veteran Willie Frommelt.
Stenmark's performance in the giant slalom was monumental—two runs made with such elegant control that he left his competition more than two seconds behind. It was widely agreed that Stenmark now has revolutionized the technique for slalom racing, replacing the tougher, aggressive style of four-time World Cup winner Gustavo Thoeni (who was 24th) with his own lovely "Wiener Walzer slalom," as one German writer phrased it.
Despite Stenmark's brilliance over several years, this was his first gold medal in Olympic or world championship competition. He had been a favorite at Innsbruck, but fell in the slalom, and he got only a bronze in the giant slalom. Ever since, skeptics had insisted that Stenmark was born to choke in big races. He has never been a favorite with the European press anyway, being about as colorful as a Swedish meatball. Most questions are answered with a stony "Ich weiss nicht." A reporter for the Paris Herald Tribune launched a determined search last week for an amusing anecdote—any amusing anecdote—about Stenmark. The best he could come up with was the one about the time Ingemar took a long-distance call from Sweden and spent 10 minutes with the telephone receiver at his ear, sometimes nodding, sometimes shaking his head, but never once uttering a word until he said goodby and hung up.
Stenmark has no girl friend, drinks not a drop of alcohol and when he goes home to T�rnaby, a tiny village in Swedish Lapland, his favorite pastime is to take a 20-mile jog through the woods—alone. Occasionally, he becomes downright gregarious and goes fishing with his father, a bulldozer driver.
But if he writes no legends with his life-style off skis, Stenmark is the stuff of legends when he is on them. The slalom at Garmisch was set on a killingly steep mountainside, one of the toughest courses in years. In the first run alone, no fewer than six of the top-seeded 15 skiers fell or skidded off the course, including Phil Mahre and Thoeni, while Andreas Wenzel made such a bad mistake that he merely coasted down the course to preserve his gold medal in the combined. Of the entire field of 102 entries, only 45 finished the horrendous first run. Not Stenmark. He attacked with his usual elegance and power and finished in 51.56. Only one racer, Piero Gros, the aggressive Italian, was ahead of him in 51.29.
In the second run, the inevitable occurred. Stenmark cracked down in 47.98 while a rough-skiing Gros tried to force his way through the gates by sheer muscle and could do no better than 48.91. That gave Ingemar his second gold medal, by .66 of a second. No one could doubt that he is the finest skier of his day—and no one would doubt again the size of his courage and the strength of his will when it came to winning the big ones.
Behind Stenmark and Gros came still another Liechtensteiner. Paul Frommelt, the younger brother of Willie. With the two Frommelt bronze medals, Wenzel's gold in the combined and silver in the giant slalom, and sister Hanni's silver in the combined, the tiny principality moved into third place behind Austria and Germany, for the rest of the championships belonged almost exclusively to local talent from those two neighbors. (The Americans did not come away entirely empty-handed. Sun Valley's Pete Patterson, 20, had finished 25th in the downhill and eighth in the giant slalom. His 23rd spot in the slalom, Sunday's closing event, gave him enough points to win a bronze medal for the combined.)
In the women's slalom, a small childlike Austrian. Lea Soelkner, won the gold—her first victory in two years of World Cup competition. The silver went to Germany's Pamela Behr, with Monika Kaserer of Austria third. In the women's giant slalom, Maria Epple of Germany brought a hillside full of Germans leaping off their feet when she streaked down for a gold medal. Her older sister Irene had come out of the 26th starting position to lead the field after the first run, but she faded slightly to finish fourth. The favorite, Lise-Marie Morerod of Switzerland, was second, the nonpareil Moser-Proell third.
Thus it was eine Ski-Weltmeister-schaft that turned into a triumph for the home teams, a triumph for the silent Swede, a triumph for the champagne lady from Kleinarl, and a triumph for the smallest nation in the world. But most of all, it was a triumph mit Schlag.