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Maybe the difference is that at the core every American girl is a teeny bopper. There has to be some hidden reason why girls from other lands keep skiing faster than girls from the U.S. It was proved again during the month of January, when the Alpine teams from 11 nations hurtled about the slopes of Germany, Switzerland and Austria in all of the big European meets. The only real change in things was that Canada's tigerish Nancy Greene shoved into the elite with those French acrobats, Marielle Goitschel and Annie Famose. The main progress the Americans made was social. They looked cuter, smiled brighter, dressed better and danced sharper than any group before them. As the American downhiller, Ni Orsi, said, "They're not like their predecessors, man. They're not a bunch of nuns."
At Oberstaufen, Grindelwald and Schruns with U.S. Women's Coach Chuck Ferries, there were, in order of the attention they created, Suzy Chaffee, Sandy Shellworth, Robin Morning, Penny McCoy and Wendy Allen. Just their names sound like a Vegas chorus line, right? Suzy, Sandy, Robin, Penny and Wendy. They were there to race and try to win, to be sure, and they had done some pretty good things in the past. But it was either too early in the season for them, or they were too lonesome. Instead of charging into the fortress that is now French ski racing, they watched Nancy Greene do it with four startling victories and then watched the French bounce back.
Meanwhile, the good old American girls were, well, good old American girls. They wrote notes to their boy friends, knitted caps for their boy friends, requested music for their boy friends—What Now My Love was very big—and occasionally went searching for their boy friends.
"One thing you get with a teeny bopper is a lot of letters and cookies," said Jimmy Heuga, America's premier slalom racer, one evening in Wengen, Switzerland, where the U.S. men spent a losing week. He gets them from 17-year-old Penny McCoy.
"Heuga is the teeny-bop king of North America," said Orsi, who ended the joking and went off to his nightly bubble bath.
It was of more than casual interest to the girls that there were more American men racing in Europe than usual. Head Coach Bob Beattie had Heuga and nine others on the European circuit watching France's Jean-Claude Killy dominate the sport as he has for two years.
The girls constantly pressed Ferries with questions like "Where are the boys now?" and "Where do they go next?" And Ferries, whose job is not entirely enviable, answered them with such statements as "Cool it," and "Put away the knitting and start winning some points." At one interval in Switzerland, when the girls were in Grindelwald and Beattie's boys were on the other side of the Eiger in Wengen, Ferries gave up and decided to change his tack. He took the girls by train to Wengen for a two-hour visit with the boys.
Suzy Chaffee, a modelish-looking 20-year-old blonde with a Doris Day smile, was first out on the platform in a new purple Bogner pants suit. "Where are the Italians?" she yelped to a Swiss baggageman, who did what all Swiss do when you ask them questions. He stared blankly at the Jungfrau. Suzy dashed off and finally found Giovanni DiBona, an Italian racer with shaggy hair for whom she is knitting a cap.
Suzy emerged as the most interesting American on the trails, for she indeed has what Beattie calls "star quality." She writes stories for newspapers, most of them unsolicited and a lot of them about herself. She will put on her long blonde wig and do a jerk on the dance floor that will injure anyone near, but when an American television man labeled her affectionately a "flake," she got mad. "That is not the image I want to project," she said. Suzy's image may one day become that of the best U.S. girl downhiller in history and also that of the team leader. "She can be the leader," said Ferries. "She goes faster than hell and likes it."
Suzy went fast but not fast enough in Europe. She got a fifth and an eighth in downhills at Grindelwald and Schruns. Not terrific, except her times were only a couple of seconds behind Nancy Greene and Marielle Goitschel, the winners. Slowly she was gaining the respect of the Europeans. Of Chaffee, Marielle Goitschel said, "She's strong and brave, but she skis crazy. Her skis sometimes go in all directions." While it was difficult ever to be unaware of Suzy's presence, she did not create the excitement she did at Vail, Colo. during December training. When the racers put on a Christmas show for the townspeople, her act was titled "The Ski Goddess from Vermont," and it involved Suzy, who is from Rutland by way of Mars or Jupiter, doing a modern interpretive dance in an ultratight stretch suit to the accompaniment of flute music she herself had recorded. "Tell me that's not flaky," said Heuga.