Kildow Turns Focus to Olympics

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March 18, 2005

LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland (AP by Andrew Dampf)--Lindsey Kildow just concluded the best skiing season by an American woman since her idol Picabo Street in 1995-96. She finished sixth in the overall World Cup standings _ matching Street's finish nine years ago _ and at 20 was the youngest skier in the top 10.

And with the 2006 Turin Olympics less than a year away, Kildow is right on track for the plan that she and her father drew up when she was just 13.

``My dad and I set up a plan to make the Olympics, winning the downhill title, then winning the overall and the next Olympics,'' Kildow said. ``I've always had a plan.''

Kildow competed in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, finishing sixth in the combined event for the best result by a U.S. woman in Alpine skiing.

This season she got her first World Cup win, in a downhill in December, and reached the podium six times. She finished fourth in the season's downhill standings and was third in super-G, trailing only two veteran Austrian racers _ Renate Goetschl and Michaela Dorfmeister.

So where did the overall title fit in that plan designed seven years ago?

``On the track it was after next season,'' Kildow said with a laugh. ``It's a little ambitious, but you know...''

Kildow knows that she might not be too far off her plan. This season's overall winner, Anja Paerson, and her closest rival, Janica Kostelic, only started excelling in speed events this season. Kildow, on the other hand, has raced all four events her entire career.

For next season, however, Kildow's main goal is the Olympics.

She used last month's world championships as a big test for the Olympics and wasn't too thrilled when she just missed out on medals with fourth-place finishes in both combined and downhill.

``What I realized in world championships is that the big events take a much different approach than normal World Cups,'' she said. ``You have to ski with so much emotion and so much heart because every single person is giving it all they have. I'm going to try and practice that, try and simulate things, and hopefully try and work out some jitters.

``The Olympics is all going to be in my head. If I don't ski well it's because of my own stupidity,'' Kildow said. ``I know what it takes, but in world championships I didn't do it. It's so frustrating.''

Kildow puts a tremendous amount of pressure on herself to perform well, and when she doesn't meet her goals she often breaks down emotionally. She said she's naturally impatient.

``I think my dad got it into me,'' she said. ``I just have a lot of expectations for myself. I know what I can achieve, and that's why I get frustrated easily.''

While Kildow has positioned herself as the top medal favorite at the Olympics among U.S. women skiers, she is not alone.

Julia Mancuso won two bronze medals at the worlds _ in super-G and giant slalom _ and finished ninth in the overall World Cup standings this season. Having just turned 21, she was the second-youngest skier in the top 10 after Kildow.

Kristina Koznick, 29, and Sarah Schleper, 26, finished fourth and fifth in the season's slalom standings. Schleper posted her first World Cup career victory Saturday in the last slalom race of the season.

There is also 19-year-old Resi Stiegler, who posted the best slalom finish among American women at the worlds, coming in sixth.Stiegler and Kildow are traveling pals when in Europe. Until U.S. nationals later this month, however, Kildow isn't planning on spending time with other skiers. She's on vacation.

``I have two and a half weeks that I'm going to try and have some down time,'' she said. ``Go to Florida with my sister, go on vacation with my boyfriend.''

Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press