Sport: The Flying Fr

In full flight down an Alp's snowy flank, Austria's Annemarie Proell resembles nothing so much as a controlled crash about to happen. Feet well apart, arms locked to her thighs, in an awkward-looking squat that offends purists, she rockets out of the starting gate toward the first turn. Her motives for that all-out start are direct: "I try to risk as much as possible in the first few gates," she says. "It makes the competition nervous—I know they watch me."

This winter Annemarie has not only made the competition nervous, but she has nearly...

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