The Calgary countdown continues with final pre-Olympic World Cup Alpine races this weekend in Europe. The men competed Friday in a downhill at Schladming, Austria, and will go in a giant slalom today, while the women are set for a slalom and a giant slalom today and Sunday at Maribor, Yugoslavia.
The U.S. Ski Team will then go to Canada via Colorado, where the National Alpine Championships are scheduled Thursday through Feb. 8 at Crested Butte and Copper Mountain. This event should mark the return of Tamara McKinney, former World Cup champion who will see if the hairline fracture in her left leg has mended sufficiently for her to race in the Winter Games, beginning Feb. 13.
Bill Johnson is also expected to use the nationals as a last attempt to show that he is ready to defend his Olympic downhill title. There's one catch, however. He may not be named to the U.S. team, which will be selected early next week by Alpine Director Harald Schoenhaar.
Johnson, 27, finished 45th in Friday's race, with a time 6.1 seconds slower than Swiss winner Pirmin Zurbriggen's 1:59.28. Of course, that still made him the third-fastest American, behind Bill Hudson, who was 37th, and Mike Brown, who was 43rd.
On Thursday, Johnson was quoted by the Rocky Mountain News as saying: "The coaches are trying to get rid of me. They don't like me. They have never liked me. They never will. . . . They like me as much as they like fleas in their beds."
Doug Lewis, the other leading U.S. downhill skier, broke his collarbone earlier this winter at Val d'Isere, France, and will be out at least until March.
Zurbriggen's victory at Schladming moved him into the overall World Cup lead with 211 points, five more than Italy's Alberto Tomba.
The Swiss continue to hold the top three places in the women's standings. Michela Figini leads with 185 points, followed by Brigitte Oertli with 173 and Vreni Schneider with 145.
U.S. cross-country skiers, meanwhile, will resume training Monday at Jeremy Ranch, near Park City, Utah, after selection of the team in trials at Biwabik, Minn.
Dan Simoneau of Bend, Ore., heads the men's contingent, which also includes, in order of their ratings, Todd Boonstra of Eagan, Minn.; Kevin Brochman of Stillwater, Minn.; Bill Spencer of Indian, Alaska; Joe Galanes of Burlington, Vt., and Jon Engen of Bozeman, Mont.
The six women chosen are Leslie Thompson of Stowe, Vt.; Nancy Fiddler of Crowley Lake, Calif.; Leslie Krichko of Paris, Me.; Dorcas Denhartog of Lebanon, N.H.; Elizabeth Youngman of Newbury, Ohio, and Ingrid Butts of Park City. Kristin Petty of Townshend, Vt., was named as an alternate.
Injuries, which have hit the American Alpine team hard, also struck the Nordic team this week.
Pat Ahern, the No. 1 Nordic combined skier, fell and broke a hip while downhill skiing near his home at Breckenridge, Colo., Wednesday and will miss the Olympics.
It was the second major U.S. loss in this event, which combines a 15-kilometer cross-country race and a 70-meter jump. Kerry Lynch, who won a silver medal in the World Championships last February at Oberstdorf, West Germany, was declared ineligible by the International Ski Federation (FIS) after he admitted to "blood packing" before that event.
The practice, not permitted by the FIS, involves blood transfusions to increase oxygen levels, thereby presumably improving an athlete's performance.
The 1976 Olympic downhill gold medalist, Franz Klammer of Austria, will be the featured guest on ESPN's "Subaru Ski World With Bob Beattie" Sunday at 2:30 p.m., PST (before the Super Bowl). . . . Saturday at 1:30 p.m., ESPN will show the recent U.S. Pro Tour races at Heavenly Valley.
Heavenly, at South Lake Tahoe, will play host again to the John Denver Celebrity race next weekend. . . . The fifth annual Steve Kanaly Invitational race is set for Feb. 7 at Mountain High, near Wrightwood.
Melanie Palenik of Littleton, Colo., and John Witt of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., won the combined titles in last weekend's World Cup freestyle meet at Breckenridge, Colo.