And Mahre, as the first American man in 16 years to win an Olympic Alpine medal of any color, should make good bucks, too. Indeed, the day after his fine slalom run on Whiteface, he was back on the mountain—this time shooting a commercial for American Express. But anything Mahre gains is only God's proper reward to a tough and courageous young man. The multiple left ankle fracture he suffered less than a year ago in a World Cup giant slalom had so gnashed and mashed the bones of the joint that when Dr. Richard Steadman opened the ankle for surgery and saw the mess in there he said in dismay, "God damn!" In the Olympic slalom it was not his left ankle but a snapped-off gate pole that may have cost him the gold.
The slalom course gates were set with old-fashioned bamboo poles, not the newfangled kind that don't break off; they pop back up when hit by a skier. After a marvelous first run in which he sent gate poles flying, Mahre was in first place by a full .39 of a second. In the critical second run he maneuvered a bit roughly through the first five gates and then struck a pole that became caught between his knees. It stayed there while he twisted through another three or four gates. Later Mahre said, "I was pushing myself too hard from the top, but if I hadn't had the problem with the pole I would have fought it out. With my knees together I just couldn't get rid of it. And I lost my rhythm."
That night Phil, his parents, his twin Steve, three of their seven brothers and sisters and a crowd of ski team members and sponsors celebrated at a Lake Placid restaurant. They toasted Phil, who grinned and blushed brightly, but remained as silent as the Swede who had beaten him. As the group ate dessert, Marc Hodler, president of the F�d�ration Internationale de Ski, entered the room, called for silence and presented Mahre with a gold medal in the shape of a snow-flake. It was for winning the FIS combined events here—a non-Olympic prize to which Phil once again responded with a beet-red blush and silence.
And then there was Liechtenstein's Hanni Wenzel. With her golds in the giant slalom and slalom and her silver in the downhill, Wenzel equaled the feat of Rosi Mittermaier at Innsbruck in 1976, and thereby tied her for the best Alpine performance by a woman in Winter Olympic history. Wenzel is now on the brink of rivaling the queen herself, Annemarie Moser-Pr�ll, as the preeminent woman skier on the World Cup circuit. Her silver in the downhill was something of a surprise, but her golds in the slaloms were not. In the giant slalom, on a very difficult course, Wenzel felt she had skied badly, and as she waited at the finish she said, "I skied with so many mistakes that I don't see I can win." But she did, although she exclaimed, "I can't believe I won. It can't be true."
True it was, and on the morning of the slalom, a day the color of old dishwater, with strange sticky snow, Wenzel told her coach, Jean-Pierre Fournier of Switzerland, "I feel great and I like the course." Just before she took the chair-lift to the top, her brother, Andreas, 21, who had won a silver in the men's giant slalom, spoke to her. Someone asked him what he had said. "I told her, 'Have a good run.' " And what had Hanni said? "She said, 'Thanks.' " Andreas grinned. "We don't waste many words," he said.
All the Alpine events on Whiteface were like that: everyone from the silent Swede to the tongue-tied twin to the eminently unloquacious Liechtensteiner preferred to let his or her feats—and his or her medals—speak for themselves.