The countdown is now 50 days to the 2006 Winter Olympics Feb. 10-26 at Torino, Italy. And Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves aren't the only American hopefuls in alpine.
The deep U.S. women's team is making its mark, led by sixth-year racer Lindsey Kildow, 21, who grew up in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.
Kildow, having posted back-to-back downhill victories this season, has moved into the World Cup DH lead with 245 points in three races, compared to 172 for Austria's Michaela Dorfmeister and 170 for Alexandra Meissnitzer of Austria.
Fifth in the SG standings with placings of 6th-7th-4th, Kildow has worked her way into third place in the overall women's standings after nine races with 372 points. Leader Dorfmeister has 466 and Meissnitzer 400. Once the gate events get into gear, Croatia's Janica Kostelic (312) and Sweden's Anja Paerson (295) will quickly move up the ladder.
Regardless, Kildow is now regarded as one of the top five women skiers in the world and she'll be closely watched at Torino. Last winter, in her breakout season, Kildow finished sixth in the overall, fifth in downhill and third in SG.
Saturday, Kildow won her third World Cup downhill and first in Europe with a .38-second victory over teammate Caroline Lalive at the 50th Criterium de la Premiere Neige in Val d'Isere, France. It was the first 1-2 women's DH finish for the Yanks since Picabo Street and Hilary Lindh did it in 1994.
Kildow's previous two DH wins came at Lake Louise, Canada, on Dec. 3 of this year and Dec. 3 of last year.
Sunday at snowy Val d'Isere, Kildow settled for a fourth-place tie in SG but three U.S. women broke into the top 10, and five made the points by finishing in the top 30.
Meanwhile, the American men are humming along.
Just showing up on the World Cup tour is something that New Hampshire's Bode Miller will be remembered for when the international alpine ski racing career of the 27-year-old finally comes to an end.
Miller, the reigning World Cup overall and super giant slalom king, has made an amazing 127 consecutive starts in World Cup races. That's the main reason he's still holding onto this year's overall lead.
With only one win in 13 races—a giant slalom gold Dec. 3 at Beaver Creek—10th-year U.S. Ski Team ace Miller has been enough of an all-around skier for 442 points and a 17-point lead over Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal (425) and 22 points over Michael Walchhofer of Austria (420).
In fourth place with 389 points is Sugar Bowl's Daron Rahlves, 32, a 13th-year U.S. Ski Team racer.
Rahlves finished fourth in Sunday's giant slalom at Alta Badia, Italy. Meanwhile, Miller hung onto his overall and GS lead in spite of the fact he took too much risk, lost a ski and crashed in the first run. Miller had been leading at the bottom interval when he crashed Sunday.
But Miller was good enough in the speed events at Val Gardena, Italy to preserve his overall lead. He was eighth in Saturday's downhill and seventh in Friday's super GS. This winter, Miller has one first, two seconds, one third and four DNFs. He's seventh in DH and 17th in SG.
The World Cup resumes for the women today, Wednesday (GS) and Thursday (SL) at Spinderluv Mlyn, Czech Republic. Men are at Kransjka Gora, Slovenia, racing GS today, Wednesday and slalom Thursday before breaking for Christmas.