The grades are in (cont.)
Posted: Friday March 16, 2007 6:11PM; Updated: Friday March 16, 2007 8:44PM
Steven Nyman: When Nyman, then 24, won his first World Cup race in the classic December downhill at Val Gardena in northern Italy, it looked like the start of promise fulfillment for the big man (6-4, 225) from Utah. It wasn't. Nyman only managed one other top 10 finish the rest of the season.
However, like Ligety, Nyman was in just his second full season on the World Cup. Miller didn't break through in a big way until his fourth year on the circuit. It takes time.
Lindsey Kildow: She is best remembered by casual fans for a horrific crash in downhill training at the 2006 Olympics. She gutted out three races, but came away with nothing in her second Olympics, at age 22, and went into this season still chasing her towering potential.
For the most part, she caught it. Kildow won three World Cup races and nailed podiums. More significantly, she won two silver medals at the Worlds, a huge breakthrough for a skier who was developing -- fairly or not -- a nasty rep for not delivering on the biggest stage. Now that rep is gone.
Unfortunately, Kildow tore her ACL in slalom at the Worlds and shut down her season. She will finish a solid fifth in the overall World Cup standings (for the second consecutive year) and carry those two silvers forward. It was a breakthrough season by any measure.
Julia Mancuso: The only U.S. woman to medal in Turin (gold in the penultimate day's giant slalom), Mancuso came into 2006-07 as the big gun on the U.S. women's team, with all the expectations attendant to that title. Kildow immediately usurped that responsibility with a first and second in the season-opening speed races in Canada in early December.
But Mancuso, who underwent hip surgery in the offseason, was dominant though the middle of the year, winning four races and getting 10 podiums. With only six races left in the season, Mancuso was a genuine threat to knock off the Austrian trio of Marlies Schild, Nicole Hosp and Renate Goetschel and become the first U.S. woman to win the World Cup overall title since Tamara McKinney in 1983. Mancuso faded slightly and will likely finish third, still the best American result since McKinney was third in '84. (Picabo Street finished fifth in '95 and Kildow did likewise last year.)
Mancuso just turned 23, and is seven months older than Kildow. She is a serious win threat in every event except slalom and a reliable big-race performer who can be expected to challenge the Austrians for several more years.
One lingering thought: After the Big Five, the top-ranked U.S. skier of either gender was tech specialist Resi Steigler -- 25th in the women's standings. The U.S. Ski Team always relies on star power, but the medal-threat talent pool appears perilously shallow.