Arnold believes his ability to concentrate is what separates him from his competitors. It also separates pro and amateur racing. A World Cup skier must make only two runs per race; to win a WPS event a racer must make 10, against five different opponents, each breathing over his shoulder. "Hungry" is a favorite word of Arnold's. "Every time when I did not do well, it was my concentration," he says. "The problem is to stay hungry every week."
But it's hard to stay hungry when you've just wrapped up your fourth consecutive world title. Last week at the Volvo Cup Downhill in Sun Valley, Arnold slept late each day, rising at about 8:00 a.m., and began to prepare himself for the downhill. He rubbed down both legs with liniment and wrapped himself in elastic braces: one for each knee, and one for his back. He slipped on his long underwear, which he wouldn't have worn had he not already clinched the championship. Had this race been crucial, Arnold would have gone naked under the skintight suit to provide better aerodynamics and shave hundredths of seconds off his time.
Arnold had been the second-fastest qualifier the day before, behind Hans Hinterseer, a fellow Austrian who was the World Cup GS champion in 1973. It was a fast and difficult course, dropping 2,300 vertical feet over 1� miles. Five of the 33 racers who attempted to qualify crashed. Arnold, not being a downhill specialist (the fastest downhillers are usually the ones with the wild eyes, not the ones with control), had trained hard all week. But despite his good qualifying time, he still hadn't found the best line through the S curves.
He finished the first of his two downhill runs 11th. His second run was better, fifth-fastest, but it only raised him to eighth overall. He stood at the bottom of the hill by a hay bale, watching as the other racers finished. The next day Arnold would get eliminated in the first round of the slalom. He shrugged at his lost weekend. "Every year, the first race after clinching the championship I always have trouble with the concentration," he said. "For sure, I'm angry about this. For sure, I will do better next time." And, for sure, he will.