Mateja Svet will be importing a little gold into Yugoslavia and, while it may not help ease that country's desperate financial problem, it surely will provide a boost to the spirit of the citizenry.
"Skiing is the national sport of Slovenia," Svet's home province, said Yugoslav coach Tone Vogrinec. "Tonight, it will be carnival time."The 20-year-old Svet's emotional triumph in the women's slalom of the World Alpine Ski Championships provided the first-ever Yugoslav gold in Olympic and world championship competition. The best previous efforts had been silvers by Bojan Krizaj in the 1982 world championship slalom at Schladming, Austria, and by Jure Franko in the 1984 Olympics at Sarajevo.
Franko's silver was special because it came in front of a home crowd. Svet's triumph is notable not only because it gave Yugoslavia a gold, but also because it ended the amazing winning streak of Switzerland's Vreni Schneider.
Schneider has won all five slaloms and all five giant slaloms contested on the World Cup circuit this season. She won another slalom when she won the front end of the women's combined. That she had to settle for silver in combined was a testament only to her less-than-sterling qualities as a downhiller.
But on Tuesday, Schneider was beaten in her specialty.
Tamara McKinney, winner of the combined gold, held a lead of .04 seconds over Svet after an opening slalom heat of 43.98 seconds. Schneider was eighth, 1.47 seconds off the American's pace.
Sure enough, Schneider scalded the frigid snow of Beaver Creek's Centennial slalom course in the afternoon, posting a time of 46.04 seconds that bested the rest of the field by .74 seconds.
It was a run that proved too much for McKinney, who was 1.54 seconds slower in the afternoon and settled for bronze with an aggregate of 1 minute, 31.56 seconds to Schneider's 1:31.49.