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White Heat
William Oscar Johnson
February 11, 1991
With the gulf war rumbling in the distance, the Austrian skiers sizzled on their home slopes and dominated the World Alpine Ski Championships
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February 11, 1991

White Heat

With the gulf war rumbling in the distance, the Austrian skiers sizzled on their home slopes and dominated the World Alpine Ski Championships

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Of the 100 U.S. team members who flew home on Jan. 17, only about 20 from the Alpine team returned to Europe. All skiers were given the opportunity to stay safe in the States, and for some it was a tough decision. Heidi Voelker, 21, a slalom specialist from Pittsfield, Mass., was not sure what to do. The war loomed large in her life because her brother Eric, 27, an infantryman in the Marine Corps reserve, had left in December for duty with ground forces in Saudi Arabia. "My parents were neutral about whether I should go back," said Voelker. "They left it up to me. But my older brother and sister said I would be out of my mind if I went back to Europe. So I was in a bit of a quandary. And then Eric called. We talked for 20 minutes, and Eric said, 'Look, your first priority is to go back and ski. The Iraqis know sand, but they don't know snow. Go back and do it.' "

And she did, finishing in an impressive tie for eighth in the slalom—her best result ever in top competition—and proving to the world that, war or no war, the snow in the Alps still belongs to the skiers.

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