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Alpine Team Best Ever?

The U.S. squad, featuring a 1-2-3 punch of Miller, Rahlves and Kildow, has high expectations entering the Turin Games.

January 26, 2006|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

Two-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller, former world champion Daron Rahlves and three-time World Cup winner Lindsey Kildow lead what the United States hopes will be its best Alpine team ever into the 2006 Turin Olympics.

The 19-member team was unveiled Wednesday, subject to final approval by the United States Olympic Committee.

"We've never had such a wealth of experience at this level," U.S. Alpine Director Jesse Hunt said in a statement.

The controversial Miller is the only Olympic medalist on the squad, having won two silvers at the 2002 Salt Lake Games, yet the U.S. ski team seems stocked with plenty of medal potential.

The 32-year-old Rahlves is actually out-performing Miller on the World Cup circuit so far this year and will be a sentimental favorite to win the Olympic men's downhill at Sestriere.

Rahlves, expected to retire at the end of this World Cup calendar, has three victories this season and is also a medal threat in super giant slalom and giant slalom.

Miller, who became the first American in 22 years to win the World Cup overall title, has yet to match last year's form. He has only one victory on tour, has failed to finish five of seven slaloms he has entered and is fourth in overall standings, one notch below Rahlves.

Looking to get a rest before the Olympics, Miller announced this week he would skip this weekend's downhill and super-giant slalom in Germany, ending his streak of competing in 136 straight World Cup races since 2002.

Miller has been a lightning-rod for criticism since his Jan. 8 comments on "60 Minutes" that he once skied while he was "wasted."

Miller expects to compete in all five Alpine events in Turin, starting with the downhill on Feb. 12.

The most pleasant surprise on the U.S. men's side has been the emergence of 21-year-old slalom specialist Ted Ligety, who has yet to win a World Cup slalom event but has become a legitimate medal contender with six top-10 finishes this year.

Rounding out the men's team are Jimmy Cochran, Chip Knight, Scott Macartney, Steve Nyman, Marco Sullivan and Erik Schlopy, the oldest ski team member at 33.

The women's team features Olympic veterans Kirsten Clark, Sarah Schleper, Caroline Lalive and Kristina Koznick, who trains independently of the U.S. squad, and is buoyed by two 21-year-old stars, Kildow and Julia Mancuso.

Kildow is already a force on the World Cup circuit, and Mancuso broke through last year to earn two bronze medals at the world championships in Bormio, Italy.

Kildow, from Vail, Colo., will be a medal contender in the women's downhill and combined events. She currently trails only Austria's Michaela Dorfmeister in the World Cup overall standings. Mancuso, from Lake Tahoe, has not skied up to her expectations on the World Cup so far this season, although she does have four top-10 finishes.

The women's squad also includes Stacey Cook, Libby Ludlow, Kaylin Richardson and Resi Stigler.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Ski teams

Athletes nominated for the 2006 U.S. Olympic ski teams, with age and hometown (* denotes past Olympian):

*--* Alpine MEN Jimmy Cochran 24 Keene, N.H. Chip Knight 31 Stowe, Vt. * Ted Ligety 21 Park City, Utah Scott Macartney 28 Redmond, Wash. * Bode Miller 28 Bretton Woods, N.H. * Steve Nyman 23 Orem, Utah Daron Rahlves 32 Sugar Bowl, Cal. * Erik Schlopy 33 Park City, Utah * Marco Sullivan 25 Squaw Valley, Cal. * WOMEN Kirsten Clark 28 Raymond, Maine Stacey Cook 21 Truckee, Cal. Lindsey Kildow 21 Vail, Colo. Kristina Koznick 30 Eagan, Minn. Caroline Lalive 26 Steamboat Springs, Colo. * Libby Ludlow 24 Bellevue, Wash. Julia Mancuso 21 Olympic Valley, Cal. * Kayllin Richardson 21 Edina, Minn. Sarah Schleper 26 Vail, Colo. * Resi Stiegler 20 Jackson Hole, Wyo.

*--*

*--* Freestyle MOGULS MEN Jeremy Bloom 23 Loveland, Colo. * Travis Cabral 22 South Lake Tahoe, Cal. Toby Dawson 27 Vail, Colo. Travis Mayer 23 Steamboat Springs, Colo. * WOMEN Shannon Bahrke 25 Tahoe City, Cal. * Hannah Kearney 19 Norwich, Vt. Michelle Roark 31 Denver Jillian Vogtli 32 Ellicotsville, N.Y. * AERIALS MEN Eric Bergoust 36 Missoula, Mont. * Joe Pack 37 Park City, Utah * Jeret Peterson 24 Boise, Idaho * Ryan St. Onge 22 Steamboat Springs, Colo. WOMEN Emily Cook 26 Belmont, Mass. Jana Lindsey 21 Black Hawk, S.D.

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